Trinidad and Tobago Minister Expelled students clarifies that is ‘not cast aside’
Trinidad and Tobago Minister Expelled students clarifies that is 'not cast aside'

Trinidad and Tobago education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly has officially declared it on Thursday that ten pupils were expelled this year, and three pupils last year, addressing a briefing at her ministry. 

Trinidad and Tobago Minister Expelled students clarifies that is 'not cast aside'

However she argued that such pupils were "not cast aside" but were largely subjected to mandatory attendance at Milat, even as their details were sent to the three other ministries to possibly lend assistance to them on based on their individual needs.

She said mandatory attendance at Milat was possible up to age 16, the compulsory age for full-time schooling.

Gadsby-Dolly began by saying the ministry had revised its school discipline matrix to have a no-tolerance stance on school violence while also boosting its care staff to 100-plus guidance counsellors and 200 school social workers.

"We are focussing on early intervention."

She said guidance counsellors were each typically assigned to a cluster of schools, with more having been hired to focus on high pressure schools.

"We have provisions in the law and the school discipline matrix to deal with students who despite our best efforts are not transforming their behaviour."

She said if errant pupils were not responding to intention, the authorities must consider the fact that other students were being disrupted.

"For students that have to be removed from our school system, for students who have to be expelled after all efforts have been made, we have already approved compulsory registration into Milat."

She said details of expelled pupils were sent to the Ministries of Youth Development and National Service, Social Development and Family Services, and National Security.

Those ministries could then offer expelled pupils their attention, counselling and access to particular programmes, Gadsby-Dolly said.

"So it is not as though we are casting these students aside. Even though they are coming out of the Ministry of Education system, there are other provisions coming from the Government to deal with these students and assist them in ways that the Ministry of Education cannot. So they can lead productive lives at the end."

The ministry will do all in its power to ensure a safe environment for pupils and teachers, she said.

Replying to questions, Gadsby-Dolly said that, after covid19, the ministry had offered pupils a vacation remedial programme plus ongoing, free after-school lessons in 80 schools of focus.

"After school there was a meal from the School Feeding Programme so they were in a frame of mind to do extra classes."

She said improvements in pupils' performance had been observed from those measures.

Replying to questions, Gadsby-Dolly said expelled pupils up to age 16 might face compulsory attendance at Milat but noted many 16-year-olds were in form three, the level at which misbehaviour becomes strongly seen.

Servol was also an option, the minister said.

Newsday asked if schools screened all pupils for vision and hearing impediments plus ADHD, as possible contributors to delinquency.

She replied, "In three of our schools of focus, we've been partnering with TTMA (Medical Association) and Unicomer to do vision screening for students because we recognise that can be one of the issues that cause students to misbehave."

Gadsby-Dolly said early intervention was critical.

"From the time a teacher sees there is something happening with a child, there is a system in place called the School-Based Intervention Team."

The teacher tells her concerns about a child to the team which suggests measures, such as calling in the parents or placing the child to the front of the class, she said.

If those early interventions do not work, the matter then escalates to the school social worker or guidance counsellor, the minister added. Earlier intervention can pre-empt a problem reaching a stage where the pupil is "acting out," she said.

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