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Trinidad: Teacher stabbed 5 times in front pupils of St Pi­ous Boys’ RC School

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Pupils were still out at the St Pius Boys’ RC School in Arouca yesterday, despite the violent attack on a teacher the day before. * MICHEAL RAMSINGH

(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) In what po­lice be­lieve was a land dis­pute turned dead­ly, a 46-year-old fe­male teacher was bru­tal­ly stabbed with an icepick in front of her Stan­dard Two pupils at the St Pi­ous Boys’ RC School in Arou­ca on Mon­day.

Cathy Ma­haraj is now said to be fight­ing for her life in the In­ten­sive Care Unit of the Er­ic Williams Med­ical Sci­ences Com­plex, Mount Hope, where her con­di­tion was classed as “very crit­i­cal.”

The in­ci­dent oc­curred around 2 pm when her at­tack­er, who is said to be 26-years-old, un­ex­pect­ed­ly stormed in­to her class­room and dealt her two stabs in the chest and three stabs to her back in full view of her shocked pupils.

Guardian Me­dia was told that the chil­dren be­gan scream­ing and cry­ing, caus­ing oth­er mem­bers of staff to run in­to the class­room where they found Ma­haraj on the ground cov­ered in blood.

The at­tack­er fled the scene but has been iden­ti­fied as the ex-boyfriend of one of Ma­haraj’s close fe­male rel­a­tives.

Po­lice have since launched a man­hunt for the sus­pect, whom they said has sev­er­al mat­ters be­fore the court and is al­so well-known to the po­lice. He was al­so shot and wound­ed a few months ago and was hos­pi­talised.

This in­ci­dent sparked shock, out­rage and hor­ror among par­ents whose chil­dren at­tend the school, teach­ers and oth­er sup­port staff, who are still very trau­ma­tised.

One par­ent, who spoke anony­mous­ly, said she was con­cerned about the se­cu­ri­ty at the school and the emo­tion­al sta­bil­i­ty of the chil­dren who wit­nessed the bloody at­tack.

“We un­der­stand that the se­cu­ri­ty guard on du­ty that day is new to the school and was not aware of all the se­cu­ri­ty pro­to­cols and would have let the man in to see the teacher, but what hap­pens to the chil­dren now?

“They (pupils) will be scarred for life and re­live this hor­ri­ble sight in their lit­tle minds for­ev­er. They need re­al pro­fes­sion­al help to over­come this. What has our coun­try be­come? Peo­ple are filled with too much anger and rage. God help us.”

Speak­ing with the Guardian Me­dia yes­ter­day, Ma­haraj’s daugh­ter Anush­ka said her moth­er’s at­tack­er was her ex-boyfriend whom she end­ed a re­la­tion­ship with last year. How­ev­er, she said the at­tack had noth­ing to do with their sep­a­ra­tion but an al­leged breach of con­tract in the pur­chase of a par­cel of land from her moth­er.

“He start­ed build­ing on the land with­out per­mis­sion and put down some pieces of steel and he want­ed pay­ment for that, but there was an ini­tial agree­ment to pur­chase the land and he breached it. She told him he couldn’t be paid for the steel and told him that they would talk about it some more af­ter school be­cause she was in her class­room. That’s when he took out the icepick and stabbed her sev­er­al times,” Anush­ka told Guardian Me­dia.

A close friend of Ma­haraj, who wished not to be iden­ti­fied, said Ma­haraj didn’t de­serve be­ing at­tacked.

“That la­dy is very hard work­ing and re­spectable…she didn’t de­serve this. It’s a very sad day.”

Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter An­tho­ny Gar­cia yes­ter­day wished for a speedy re­cov­ery to the teacher but al­so gave the as­sur­ance that a thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion will be con­duct­ed to en­sure the un­for­tu­nate in­ci­dent is not re­peat­ed.

“Our teach­ers are re­spon­si­ble for mould­ing the fu­ture of Trinidad and To­ba­go. No teacher must feel any sense of dan­ger while they car­ry out their du­ty in de­liv­er­ing ed­u­ca­tion to our stu­dents, and no stu­dent should ever have to be a wit­ness to such an at­tack,” Gar­cia said.

“The Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion will con­tin­ue to do all that is nec­es­sary to en­sure that teach­ers and stu­dents of all schools feel safe through­out the school day.”

Gar­cia, how­ev­er, not­ed that the guard had been hired by the Catholic Ed­u­ca­tion Board and not the min­istry, but al­so in­di­cat­ed that pre­lim­i­nary in­ves­ti­ga­tion showed the guard did not fol­low the pro­to­col for per­sons en­ter­ing a school com­pound. He said the Di­rec­tor of School Su­per­vi­sion has or­dered a full probe in­to the mat­ter.

In a re­lease, the min­istry al­so not­ed that de­spite the at­tack, 105 of the school’s 191 pupils and 10 teach­ers who com­prise the school pop­u­la­tion were present yes­ter­day.

The min­istry said the at­tack raised se­cu­ri­ty is­sues at the school, as the as­sailant en­tered the com­pound un­der false pre­tences.

“There­fore as a part of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to the in­ci­dent the se­cu­ri­ty pro­to­col for en­try and ex­it to the school com­pound will be as­sessed, and changes made where nec­es­sary,” it said.

The min­istry con­firmed that staff from the Stu­dent Sup­port Ser­vices Di­vi­sion, in­clud­ing a team of guid­ance of­fi­cers and so­cial work­ers, went to the school yes­ter­day and met with stu­dents who wit­nessed the in­ci­dent “to of­fer in­ter­ven­tion and coun­selling as need­ed. Ser­vices af­ford­ed un­der the Em­ploy­ee As­sis­tance Pro­gramme will al­so form a part of the in­ter­ven­tion to be giv­en to the school.”

How­ev­er, the min­istry did not com­ment on the cir­cum­stances of the in­ci­dent or the sta­tus of po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

The Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion’s Health, Safe­ty and Se­cu­ri­ty Di­vi­sion, along with po­lice of­fi­cers from the Arou­ca CID, are con­tin­u­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

T&T Uni­fied Teach­ers As­so­ci­a­tion sec­ond vice pres­i­dent Kyr­la Robert­son-Thomas mean­while con­demned the at­tack, point­ing out that it is one of the many of so­ci­ety’s ills that had now spilt in­to schools that were once con­sid­ered safe grounds.

She em­pha­sised that safe­ty and se­cu­ri­ty pro­to­cols at all schools, es­pe­cial­ly pri­ma­ry schools, need to be re­in­forced and strength­ened, in­clud­ing the place­ment of more than one se­cu­ri­ty guards on the com­pound of all pri­ma­ry schools through­out T&T.

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