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The images that circulated over the weekend of secondary school students bullying, physically attacking and robbing fellow colleagues were truly shocking.
They all seem to have originated from Siparia West Secondary School and we expect that, as promised by Minister of Education Anthony Garcia, action will be taken.
The fear is that this may not be an isolated case, with bullying continuing to be a major problem in our schools.
With mobile phones being ubiquitous nowadays, the uploading of pictures of bullies’ actions gives a new twist to the problem. After all, it doesn’t seem to be good enough to bully; some now think it is even better to show everyone how bad they are.
The challenge for the schools and the authorities is considerable: it has never been easy to stop bullying in schools and mobile phones can be hidden from checks by teachers and staff.
However, more attention must be given to this issue for many good reasons. The obvious one is that no child should be at the mercy of abuse or attack by other children whilst at school. And, especially given the rise in crime in Trinidad and Tobago, schools must be where children learn that violent behaviour, physical (or any other) abuse and stealing are not acceptable in society.
Failure to do so may only turn our schools into breeding grounds of future adults who think they are entitled to take whatever they want through violence and intimidation.
President Carmona is right to be disgusted at the fake story that circulated about his wife’s supposed death in a car crash.
Sadly, this is not to be the last fake news to circulate of such bad taste. The internet opened a fascinating world of opportunities to learn and discover but many also realised early on that it’s a perfect space for bad behaviour, especially through social media.
It’s unlikely that fake news—irrespective of how tasteless it is—will cease to be a problem, as controlling the internet is not an easy task (and perhaps not to be attempted either).
This also makes traditional media organisations more, not less, relevant in the digital era. Checking a story’s veracity remains a key responsibility of any newsroom and, although we are far from perfect and will get things wrong from time to time, the deliberate placing of harmful and untrue stories is a step in one direction no editor wants to take.
Social media hoaxers, though, don’t share the same views.
Prime Minister Keith Rowley was right in asking T&T citizens to continue to assist our brothers and sisters in need across the Caribbean, following the destructive path of hurricanes Irma and Maria. The support so far has been considerable. We can do more, though. Above all, we must remember the rebuilding of people’s lives will take a long time.
The easiest mistake is to think that the problems are over as soon as the media attention moves away from such disasters. That’s when our Caribbean relatives need even more help from us all.