Gunmen climbed onto rooftops of the Plannings at Upper and Lower Nelson Street and were firing off "warning/message" gunshots at each other on Wednesday morning, when five stray bullets ended up penetrating a classroom at the South East Port of Spain Secondary School.
One of the bullets ricocheted and grazed a female teacher on the hand, while another bullet went just over the head of a pupil while he was sitting his end of term examination. The bullet missed his head by mere centimetres.
The teacher was in a classroom located on the second floor supervising examinations at the time of the incident, which occurred during the second period of the day just before 10 am.
Guardian Media was told by police sources that the bullets would have entered the school’s compound from the back of the school.
Speaking with the Guardian Media, under strict anonymity, a teacher who was there at the time of the incident, said for certain the pupil had a guardian angel over him.
“He was sitting forward in his chair writing his test. If he was only sitting up, he would have been shot in the head. There were actually bullet holes in the wall to the back of the classroom and one of the bullets ricocheted and struck the teacher in her hand.”
The teacher described the "warning/messages" shots as "normal" and added that it occurs on a daily basis.
“We have become so accustomed hearing gunshots all around us, but now that this incident has happened and one of us injured and a child was so close to being either seriously wounded or dead, it has become very traumatic, so that some of us are frightened to return to school.”
Antonia DeFreitas, president of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers' Association (TTUTA), in an immediate response, confirmed the incident occurred and added that there stands now “serious concerns for the lives of the teachers".
Asked if TTUTA will be approaching the Ministry of Education to discuss relocating schools that are in high risk areas because of safety and security concerns, DeFreitas said:
"There were discussions years ago but I think the time has come for those discussions to be raised again."
When contacted, an official at the education ministry said that subsequent to the incident, the school's emergency protocols immediately kicked in, which included the pupils being escorted to a safe place; security increased at the school; and the police called in to conduct investigations and to declare the building safe again, to determine when classes can resume.
Education Minister Anthony Garcia is expected to get a comprehensive report on the incident.
Story by RHONDOR DOWLAT-ROSTANT