The time was 10.44 on Tuesday night when Guardian’s photo editor Micheal Bruce drove on to Chancery Lane in Port-of-Spain, while I sat in the front passenger seat of his car.
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Supervisor takes over
Education Minister Anthony Garcia is denying any disciplinary action has been taken against Siparia West Secondary School principal Sookoo Sonnylal, following the circulation of a video online in a school official is seen in an altercation with a group of students.
Garcia told the T&T Guardian yesterday that while the ministry has no authority to hire, fire, transfer or discipline teachers and principals, there was a serious breach identified in the video, which follows a few others of violence at the school. The latest video shows a man holding a piece of iron while trying to address students who were out of class.
Citing the Education Act of 1966, Garcia said a principal’s most important function was the safety of the students.
“There have been instances of breaches of the disciplinary metric that exists in the school. I will also point out where there are breaches; each school must have a disciplinary plan which will include all the actors in the school. The principal of a school, his or her’s most important responsibility is to ensure the safety of students and that is in the Education Act,” Garcia said.
Section 27 (a) of the act and the regulations state that principals of schools shall be responsible for the day to day management of their schools, including the supervision of the physical safety of pupils. Part (c) states that principals are responsible for the allocation and supervision of the duties and responsibilities of members of their staff while Part (d) gives them control over the discipline of the school.
Despite talks yesterday that Sonnylal had been suspended, Garcia said the ministry had asked him to “remove himself from the school and report to the St Patrick District Education Office in San Fernando.”
In the interim, a senior school supervisor has been sent to the school to oversee operations while a School Supervisor III was given the responsibility to monitor the school.
“The only body with the authority to fire any principal or teacher is the Teaching Service Commission and for this to be done you have to go through a process. If a teacher or principal commits any breach, it has to be investigated by a senior officer of the ministry and if there is any charge, it will be referred to the Teaching Service Commission who will look at it, then inform the teacher or principal of the charge and then based on that a tribunal will be appointed to look into it.”
Recalling that the ministry had undergone a series of measures to reduce school indiscipline, Garcia said the violence at the Siparia West Secondary School was isolated. He said out of the 580 public schools in T&T, this is just one incident and it does not take away from the fact that there has been an overall improvement in the discipline in the school system.
“This situation in the school is an isolated one and we asked the School Supervisor III to do a thorough investigation and submit a report, which should have been on my desk today (yesterday). I just got back from Parliament so I have not seen it as yet.”