The Ministry of Education says it will not allow pranksters to disrupt the administration of the CSEC and CAPE examinations.
This, even as they introduced stricter security measures following widespread calls today that a number of bombs had been planted at several secondary schools across the country.
Speaking from his office at the Education Tower, Port-of-Spain earlier - Garcia assured students and parents that there was nothing to panic about.
He said, “Very early this morning, I received a call from one of the principals of a school stating that she received an email threat yesterday evening, saying that a bomb would be placed in the school bag of one of the students and if a certain sum of money was not paid by 10 am today, then the bomb would be detonated.”
“As a result, there would chaos in schools.”
While he did not identify the principal he spoke with, Garcia said the TTPS was contacted.
Revealing the Cyber Crime Unit, as well as the Canine Unit, had been alerted, Garcia said officers with sniffer dogs began visiting schools from as early as 6 am today to conduct detailed searches of premises, students and arriving school officials.
In a release this morning, the ministry identified two of the schools which included St. Joseph’s Convent, Port-of-Spain and St. Joseph’s Convent, St. Joseph.
There was an unconfirmed report that a similar threat had been been received by officials at St. George’s College, Barataria - sparking rumors that the threats were being extended only to Catholic-run schools.
However, this was debunked by Garcia who said, “While we felt this was an isolated incident, we learnt further that very many other schools have been affected and the principals, in accordance with the procedures that has been developed, have contacted the police and they are doing searches to ensure there is not device that can cause any disruption of exams.”
Garcia went on, “It is my feeling that this had been deliberately done to affect the smooth running of the exams.”
Condemning the action, he added, “It is only somebody with a deranged mind would think of such an action and that has to be condemned.”
Warning that the perpetrators of this crime would feel the full brunt of the law whenever they are found, Garcia appealed to parents and students to remain calm.
He said, “Examinations are being written as normal so they have not succeeded with their devious plan.”
Meanwhile, a father of a student attending St. George’s College confirmed he was asked to pick up his daughter around 10 am - while the mother of a child attending a Catholic primary school in Port-of-Spain confirmed a similar move by school authorities.
The two said they were told the action was taken in the interest of the childrens’ safety.
Principal at St. Joseph’s Convent, Port-of-Spain - Anna Pounder issued a release which advised parents and guardians that, “Acting on information received, the school authorities contacted the relevant authorities and passed it on to them. The Police visited the school yesterday and this morning officers of the Special Branch and Canine Unit did a thorough sweep of every area. The school has been declared safe and we are continuing with class and exams.”
The Email Threat Sent To Principals
“This message is to EVERYONE. On Friday 24th May, 2019 we are sending a student with a bomb. The bomb will go off at 10 am if you do not send $100,000 TTD to pay[email protected]fulmc.com. If you do not send the money! We will blow up the device. If you try to call the police WE WILL BLOWUP THE DEVICE ON SPOT. ANY attempt at DEFUSING it yourself will cause it to explode!”
TTPS Says Schools Safe
In a release around midday, Police Commissioner Gary Griffith advised members of the public that police officers had thoroughly investigated bomb threats made against several schools and these institutions have now been declared safe for occupation by teachers and students.
The commissioner led a team of officers to St. Mary’s College; St. Joseph’s Convent, Port of Spain; Fatima College; Holy Name Convent; and St. Joseph’s Convent, St. Joseph.
This, after several bomb threats were made against these schools today.
Griffith urged members of the public to use social media more responsibly, as he said, “At the time when persons were sharing the post, police officers were actively engaged in investigating these threats.”
“This undue panic resulted from one individual’s decision to share the post on social media.”
The CoP admitted some people may use incidents such as these as a way of self-promotion or to achieve a sense of self-importance by sharing information on social media.
“However, this has only led to increased anxiety and panic among students, parents and staff at these schools, as many students are sitting their examinations today.”
Griffith said while persons should not trivialise any bomb threat, he strongly advised, “Persons that upon receiving such a threat, that they should immediately make a report to the police so that relevant protocols for investigating the authenticity of such threats can be activated.”
Reporter: Anna Lisa-Paul