…in light of threats at Nations, shooting of director

AMID ongoing threats at the School of the Nations and the shooting of its director by unknown gunmen, the Guyana Police Force has deployed police officers to all city schools commencing from Tuesday, Education Minister, Nicolette Henry has confirmed.

The move came as a direct result of online threats which were leveled against School of the Nations, located on New Market and Main Streets, Georgetown. The decision was arrived at following a meeting on Tuesday, which involved Minister Henry and key technical members of her staff as well as a high-level team from the Guyana Police Force. The police team was headed by Commissioner Leslie James, who was accompanied by Deputy Commissioner Operations, Maxine Graham; Assistant Commissioner and ‘A’ Division Commander, Marlon Chapman, and Senior Superintendent and Deputy Crime Chief, Michael Kingston. The meeting was held at the ministry’s Brickdam headquarters.

Following the meeting, James was approached by this newspaper for a comment but would not divulge the details of the meeting. He did say however, that the online threats were of grave concern to both the Guyana Police Force and the Ministry of Education, hence the meeting. The commissioner did confirm that investigations are ongoing to determine the level of threat and where they are coming from, but asked that the investigators be allowed to work as they seek to bring closure to all that is happening. James said that the meeting with the minister was cordial and while he would not wish to speak much on it since it was called by the ministry, he did speak on the security aspects of things.

James indicated that security issues were addressed and that most of it had to do with concerns that the government, through the ministry of education, had. On the issue of the threats, the police chief said that they wish not to read into anything, but are treating the investigation seriously.

Meanwhile, Minister Henry told the Guyana Chronicle that the meeting with her team and the school, as well as police, was very necessary and that it focused on the safety, security and wellbeing of all teachers and students at the school, and the need for the situation to be returned to normalcy in the fastest possible time. “Both at the level of government and the Ministry of Education, we have requested support from the police force in terms of providing coverage of all secondary schools in Georgetown at this point in time and it’s neighbouring environs, because we would really like to prevent similar occurrences at this particular time. So, we do have police presence at schools beginning today (yesterday) and there are also patrols to ensure that the safety and security and wellbeing of the teachers and the students are maintained at this point in time,” Minister Henry told the Guyana Chronicle.

The ministry, according to Henry, also heard from the school about their measures and requested any ideas that they had, which they would like to see the ministry implement as part of assisting the process, while patrols around the school by members of the Guyana Police Force was agreed upon.Nations Chief Executive Officer, Dr Dexter Phillips told Guyana Chronicle that following the implementation of a number of security measures, the school will reopen for evening and weekend classes today for the time being.

Over the last few days, School of the Nations has been receiving threats which came on the heels of the expulsion of a student from the school. There were reports which sought to link the expelled student to the threats which he has since denied.

The Director of the School, Brian O’Toole, was forced to call an emergency meeting with the parents and students last Sunday to assess the level of the threat and spoke of the measures the school was willing to employ to ensure that the children were safe. However, after that meeting Sunday, Dr. O’Toole was shot in both hands after being ambushed as he was about to head into his home. He had just returned from a dinner, according to his wife in an interview with the Guyana Chronicle newspaper. Following that incident, the person or persons making the threats then went to social media to claim responsibility for the attack, and pointed out that there were groups of persons who were involved in what is going on and they will continue. There was then a threat to blow up the school and that also prompted a second meeting with the school and its partners, where they were again briefed on the school’s posture in light of the threats. However, on Monday, that meeting failed to rest well with parents who felt that the school was not giving them enough information that would allow them to feel safe and as such, they pressured the school into keeping its doors closed until they can guarantee the safety of the students.