In response to an article which appeared in this publication on Friday 26 October (See Here), regarding a 12-Year-Old student of the School of the Nations who had committed suicide at his home in Tuschen on the East Bank of the Essequibo, the prominent city school has decided to clarify a contentious point that was made in that article.
According to the Director of the school, Dr. Brian O’Toole, the suggestion in the article that bullying at the school could have been a possible reason why the child may have committed suicide, is an unsubstantiated statement.
In his view, bullying was not a factor because of a thorough assessment that he had done subsequent to the news article, and as would have been the standard processes in any other serious occurrence that may be related to the school or any of its students.
Dr O’Toole explained that he conducted a personal investigation after reading the article in an effort to verify the bullying allegation. But after interrogating teachers, admin staff and students in Forms 1 and 2 in particular, he was able to confirm that neither of them was aware of any form of bullying that the student (name withheld) might have encountered in the school.
As far as he is aware the now-dead child was at school on Thursday and was portraying his usually jovial and friendly personality among his peers and during class sessions.
However, he was surprised to learn that the student had committed suicide the next morning, a few minutes before he was scheduled to leave for school.
Prior to our report, many of the students and teachers were unaware that the child had committed suicide and only learnt about it through an article in this publication.
Referring to some elements of the article, Dr O’Toole’s explained that the supposed reason for the child’s suicide as was suggested in the said story was treated as ‘news’ to the students of the school since bullying is an unusual practice at the institution.
He added that in his 20-years of operating the School, he was never aware that bullying was a prevalent factor there. The well-known private school operator added that if any child acts as an instigator in such an act at his school, he would immediately expel that student, regardless of their social class, familiarity or privilege.
However, he stressed that the school has been embarking on several new initiatives that can aid in the development of the students, outside of the realms of pure academics.
Pointing to a list of these socially motivating programs, Dr O’Toole explained that the institution is about to notify all parents about several initiatives that are underway to promote a happy and conducive school environment; – a project that was implemented a mere one day before the young boy took his own life.
The implemented programs include a free Junior Youth Club at Nations from 2 to 4 pm that focuses on guidance issues and art, music, dance, drama and sports on Saturdays.
He reported that the Youth club which had commenced on Saturday, saw an attendance of 32 students.
Subsequently, because of the interest shown in that project, the school has now decided to include a Youth Club for students in Forms 3, 4 & 5, in addition to a new programme that is being introduced in Forms 1 and 2 during school time, to address development & guidance issues, and which is conducted by Dr. O’Toole himself who is a trained Educational Psychologist.
Other staff members are also trained in guidance, counselling, and special needs, and are quite capable of addressing any suspicious or psychological situation that may be affecting any student at the school.