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Librarian refuses to go back to work

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Police have launched an investigation into an alleged all-female student gang linked to a violent attack on a library assistant and two on-the-job (OJT) trainees at the Rio Claro West Secondary School on Thursday. Yesterday, library assistant Ravelle Rajcoomar-Harinarine, in an interview with the T&T Guardian, expressed fear for her life after she said she was mercilessly beaten by one of the girls in the gang of form three students.


Rajcoomar-Harinarine said Thursday’s incident was the culmination of months of harassment she had had to endure at the hands of the girls since she started working at the school last July. She is now seeking a transfer. “I do not want to go back to that school. I am doing a report to my employer Nalis. I do not want to go back even if they expel this girl. She has two accomplices going to that school,” Rajcoomar-Harinarine said.


The 29-year-old mother of one, from  Rio Claro, said she and two OJTs were attacked by the gang of students, after they told the principal, Reynold Seebaran, the students were misbehaving in the library during the lunch break. “She was shouting and making abusive remarks to me and another OJT in the library. We went to the principal and he called them to the office. He banned them from the library until further notice and sent them back to class,” she said.



However, Rajcoomar-Harinarine said when they left the office the girls were waiting for them in the corridor. She said the two girls pushed the OJTs and the third girl grabbed her throat and struck her, pushed her to the ground and started hitting her.


“She hold my hair and dragged me on the ground. She was kicking me. I am in a lot of pain, she kicked me in my ribs and my head swollen from where I hit the ground and when she was pulling my hair,” she said. Rajcoomar-Harinarine, who did not want to be photographed, said while the teenage girl was beating her as she lay on the ground, the other two girls kept the OJTs at bay.


A report was made at the Rio Claro Police Station and she sought medical attention at the Rio Claro Medical Centre. Her husband Christopher yesterday said the incident had left Rajcoomar-Harinarine traumatised and he intends to take legal action. “I am very upset about this situation and deeply concerned for my wife’s welfare. Threats have been made and she is fearful for her life.


“They are bigger than my wife. What if this little girl had a weapon? My wife would have been dead,” he said. Rajcoomar-Harinarine said she could recall only some parts of the attack because she blacked out shortly after she was struck. A meeting between the students’ parents and school officials was held yesterday, but the girl who allegedly led the attack did not turn up at school.


Christopher said the child’s mother apologised for her daughter’s action, but he said, “That is not good enough.”



Ministry of Education responds

Education Ministry media relations adviser, Yolanda Morales-Carvalho, said an investigation has been launched into Thursday’s alleged incident. “In a case like this, those are just allegations. We need to know if it did take place and if it did, we need to find out why and prevent it from taking place again,” she said.



Morales-Carvalho declined to say more, since she said it was also a police matter. She said Student Support Services has been contacted, which is part of the ministry’s protocol, to offer counselling to students. Counselling will be provided for students on Monday. Morales-Carvalho said in cases such as this, students face suspension for periods between seven days and a month.


“I have never heard of expulsion as part of our education system in T&T,” she added.



More Info

T&T Unified Teachers Association (TUTTA) vice-president Davanand Sinanan said incidents of school violence should not be tolerated and should be dealt with by the law. Sinanan, commenting on the alleged attack, said, “We denounce all forms of violence, especially violence on the part of student towards members of staff. We will always insist that those situations are dealt with according to the provisions of the law.”


He said while there are various disciplinary actions that could be taken against the student, in cases such as Rajcoomar-Harinarine’s it is automatic suspension. Sinanan said the authorities should ensure the provisions of the law are adhered to, since “the law is clear on how to deal with that.”



“We have every confidence that the principal, in consultation with the school supervisor, will ensure that the law takes its course,” he said.


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