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Dear Editor: Small correction, Minister Garcia, school fights are not no big thing

“Minister [Anthony] Garcia, are the ‘shattered bones [in the] right elbow’ of Shareefa Ali and Chris Khan’s 9-year-old son–injuries sustained, as reported in the 3 February, 2017 Trinidad Guardian, as a result of a fight initiated by a bully and which required surgery—a ‘part of growing up’?

“Is being ‘hit with a chair’ and then being hospitalised as a result, as happened in the case of one young woman whose story was carried in the Trinidad Guardian in 2011, ‘part of growing up’? Is a broken arm, of the sort suffered by 8-year-old Enshan Hosein in March 2017 when, as reported in the Trinidad Express, a fellow student pushed him to the ground, ‘part of growing up’?”

The following Letter to the Editor, which deals with the Education Minister’s recent statements on the subject of school violence, was submitted to Wired868 by Akilah Holder.

Photo: Education Minister Anthony Garcia.
(Courtesy News.Gov.TT)

According to an article in the Trinidad Express on Wednesday 20 December headlined “School Fights Part of Growing Up,” Education Minister Anthony Garcia told the media that fighting in school is normal and nothing out of the ordinary.

School fights are, Garcia was quoted as saying, “a part of life, a part of growing up. But the media seems to be sensationalizing this whole thing as if it is a big scourge on our education system.”

“He encouraged the new school supervisors,” the Express story continued, “to assist in ‘changing that conversation’.”

Really? School fights are “part of growing up”? And new school supervisors are to assist in changing that conversation?

Change it to what? To a discussion about what? Certainly not a discussion on the same sex education that, within a month of being appointed to his position, Minister Garcia so emphatically declared “will not be taught in our schools.”

It seems to me that Garcia was merely throwing around a fancy academic phrase to try to impress us all, to try to make us think he knew what he was talking about. But you did not need any special glasses or any special insight to see right through him.

And there’s more: Garcia actually told the media as well that, when he was growing up, he got into fights in school. I didn’t realise that was something to be proud of, to boast about. Do you think he heard himself speaking?

Photo: Education Minister Anthony Garcia (centre) meets with students of Fatima College.
Garcia is a former Fatima principal.
(Copyright News.gov.tt)

Garcia even went on to say, if the December 20 Loop article on the issue is accurate, that boys fight to “establish themselves.” Where the hell did he get that from? My research—I had to check to ensure I hadn’t missed some recent development or discovery in psychology—revealed that that is not at all so.

In an article on pbs.org titled “Understanding and Raising Boys,” American psychologist Joseph Tobin, Ph.D, explains that, while rough play is normal for boys, when it turns into an actual fight, that aggressiveness is problematic.

Clearly, a distinction needs to be made between the two, a distinction, one hopes, that will not be too fine for our fighting-hardened Education Minister.

For here was the Minister of Education, the man entrusted with the academic future and security of our children while they attend school, announcing for all the world to hear that, along with all the other garbage recorded above, he had got into fights when he was growing up,

Minister Garcia, are the “shattered bones [in the] right elbow” of Shareefa Ali and Chris Khan’s 9-year-old son—injuries sustained, as reported in the 3 February, 2017 Trinidad Guardian, as a result of a fight initiated by a bully and which required surgery—a “part of growing up”?

Is being “hit with a chair” and then being hospitalised as a result, as happened in the case of one young woman whose story was carried in the Trinidad Guardian in 2011, “part of growing up”? Is a broken arm, of the sort suffered by 8-year-old Enshan Hosein in March 2017 when, as reported in the Trinidad Express, a fellow student pushed him to the ground, “part of growing up”?

Photo: Trick or treat!
A ball boy runs for cover during the 2015 First Citizens Cup final at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

I can go on, Minister Garcia, but I’d like to think that by now you have got the picture, feel foolish, and regret your statement. I would like to think you do.

Were you never taught growing up, Minister Garcia, that you should always think before you talk? Please load brain before shooting off mouth?

I do hope that you have learned that now, and that you have realised the inanity of your statements. I also hope that you now see how distasteful and unbecoming it was for a man of your standing, the Education Minister no less, to make such a statement.

If I were you, Minister Garcia, I would apologise and admit that such a statement was in poor taste. I would retract it. But humility comes easily to me so perhaps it’s unfair to expect you, Mr Minister, to eat humble pie.

You see, Mr Minister, back in the day, even without weapons, school fights were wrong; they still are today. Students who got into fights back then needed to be taught to manage and control their emotions, to receive anger management training. Ditto students who get into fights nowadays. Because school fights are not “part of life, part of growing up.”

Let me also say that your getting into a fight when you were younger is nothing to boast about; in fact, it is something to be ashamed of. I cannot believe you can be Education Minister and not know that.

Photo: St Mary’s College defender Augustine Nkemakolam consoles St Anthony’s College captain Derron John (#27) after their Coca-Cola North Zone Intercol final clash at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 21 November 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

And here is something else you need to know: thus far, you have done a lousy job of addressing the issue of school violence. Teachers, parents and students continue to complain. Why not just admit that you do not have this under control and perhaps do not know what you are doing?

Have you considered moving over to make way for someone who can address this issue along with the other issues plaguing our now lousy education system? Please don’t tell me that you inherited the mess; the reason you were put there is to clean it up.

Of course you also have the option of levelling with the public and conceding that finding the required solutions is taking rather longer than you had anticipated.

Facing up to your failings in that way would be better than making those foolish statements in attempting to save your face.

About Akilah Holder

Akilah Holder
Akilah Holder is a former college lecturer and journalist whose strong convictions often win her enemies, which does not faze her. She lives by the mantra ‘ignore the ignorant,’ has already published one book and has her own blog at https://intelligenttalk.wordpress.com/

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  1. Minister Garcia you are a public servant which means you have to serve people choose your words wisely you’ve been suffering from foot in mouth disease pal brush up on yu acumen please it’ll help the nation children .

  2. Being a former principal you should know better. This is 2017 .

  3. Mr. Garcia you have served this country for a number of years, and that is admirable….now have the humility to say you can’t do this job and go home and chill….

  4. Long time you could have gotten cut ass for fighting. Now nothing thanks to a special lady. Now the students want to cut the teacher ass.

  5. You would also see that these bad BEHAVIOUR usually happens in the government school as the teacher hands are tied. I’m the denominational school you can be expelled because it’s a privilege to attend these schools.

  6. Try and understand what the Minister was saying he was telling the truth there was always bullying and fights but without weopens. Once you reported it licks would pass. Now students are fighting in gangs and are from gangs and there is no capital punishment. Don’t blame the Minister you have to deal with it with the Police

  7. This fellow looks very spaced out most of the time. I think he smokes some very good stuff, which I would like to try out.

  8. Now a days Mr Minister, some training differently, so many of today’s parents not accepting that statement. In years gone by was”heave” now they fight battles. Everyone seems to be angry

  9. Hit Garcia with some chairs and.tell him that is.part of growing up. Idiot big time.

  10. This man taught at d school I attended and after all these years I can c that he is still clueless, although he used his brand of punishment ,he still hasn’t learned that then and now is different,, vastly different Mr Garcia,

  11. What do we really expect from politicians ??? Can we really be surprised?

  12. Coming soon to your school bags kids……Pepper Spray.

  13. The parents are the ones responsible for their children’s behavior not the education system

  14. For a former school principal, that was an asinine statement to make. Hush sometimes.

  15. Yes Mr Garcia is responsible for the behavior of children in schools and not there parents smh,the education system need to change to suit the needs of t&t .

  16. I saw this headline a few days ago and steups. Now giving it a quick read…like the media ketch the minister in ah rum shop or what? Smfh.

  17. Well they say also that homosexual behaviour in prestige schools are ‘just pranks”…

  18. Exactly, he fails to realise there’s a huge gap between his time and now. Children facing death everyday they leave home for school.

  19. Mr Garcia, we are living now in 2018 and not 1956. Sure I got into fights but we fought with our fists and feet and the next day all was well. Nowadays pupils carrying weapons in their school bag in place of books. Fights are done to send someone to the hospital or undertaker. Its a totally different ball game. Taking all that into consideration it is a bit sad and disappointing that a minister of education should make such an uneducated statement. But then politicians always seem to talk first and think after.

  20. This behaviour must be normal for TnT. I hosted a Swiss national some time ago. While watching news there was a vid of the usual school girls’ fight. I asked him what he thought about it. He said you would not see Swiss girls fighting like that. He said you would see Swiss school boys fighting but not girls. We did not get into the differences in intensity or frequency of fighting males.

  21. Yes growing up you will get into fights , in or out of school , but this is school violence. I can’t understand how the minister dose not see the difference .

  22. Mr Garcia seems to be defining the shortcomings of the administration he represents, by openly highlighting the deficiency that exists in its ability to suggest and implement solutions to some of the burning issues that affect our society. I am not sure if shameful or regrettable best describes the opinion he has communicated.

  23. Hope the Minister reads this and it sinks in. His comments really was in bad taste especially when there is such a big problem with bullying in all schools, and discipline is at an all time low in the schools. Mr Garcia people want answers to the problem not the Minister saying it is OK to fight in school. When children get injured I hope you take full blame. Very disappointed in your comments Mr. Garcia

  24. It pointless oui.
    We are faithfully committed to f%&kry in this place!