Ottos principal accuses students of vandalism; calls for more security at school campuses

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Principal of the Ottos Comprehensive School, Foster Roberts, looking with disappointment at one section of his office that was vandalised this week. Sections of the Ottos Comprehensive School vandalised by unknown perpetrators this week
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By Orville Williams

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Principal of the Ottos Comprehensive School, Foster Roberts, is claiming that a group of students could be involved in the latest incidences of vandalism at the school campus, while calling for the level of security at schools to be improved.

The latest incident took place some time between late Tuesday and early Wednesday, when the perpetrators forced their way into the principal’s office by breaking through burglar bars.

Speaking to Observer on the grounds of the campus yesterday, Roberts disclosed that the school had previously been broken into on Sunday, before being targeted yet again.

The principal’s office was the target of the latest break-in and, Foster said, while the perpetrators did not make off with anything of great value, the incident is still disappointing.

“Because we knew that they came in on Sunday, we didn’t leave any cash here. So, they took an empty safe and dismantled it down on the farm, and they also ransacked the office.

“As a principal, I feel violated. It’s just as if you had come into my home and done this to me…this is my space, this is where I work, and I’ve not been able to properly carry out my functions since Monday,” he said.

While stopping short of naming names, Roberts explained that several observations made in the aftermath of Sunday’s break-in, point to the likelihood of some students being involved.

“[It has happened] twice in three days, so that certainly can’t be a good feeling, and I know that some of our students may very well be involved. 

“Where they broke in the first time they came, all of those rooms are in the remedial section of the school, so it could be one of those students who probably had a beef with one of the teachers – because [the perpetrators] actually defecated in three of the rooms, one on the teacher’s table and two in the middle of the rooms.

“[For those reasons], I would just speculate that it is some person [or persons] from the unit [who are involved],” he said.

School break-ins are certainly not a new phenomenon in Antigua, with several campuses falling victim to the crime over the years. In fact, the education ministry was prompted to install CCTV cameras at a handful of secondary schools, based on the frequency of the incidents at one point.

According to Roberts, it is long past time for those in charge to consider the benefits of physical security personnel, making them a permanent fixture at schools across the country.

“If there was [security] personnel on campus, then this probably would not have happened; that is something that the authorities really need to look into. I mean, it’s good to have CCTV cameras, but when you have the [security] personnel, it adds to the security of the institutions,” he said.

“Schools like [Ottos], Clare Hall and Princess Margaret are hotspots for thieves and so these schools should be on the priority list for 24-hour security.”

Along with that suggestion, Foster encouraged parents to do more to dissuade their children from getting involved in incidents like these, and also questioned the apparent departure from societal values meant to preserve the sanctity of certain institutions.

“I’m calling on the parents of young people [to monitor their comings and goings] and at least reach out to the school so that we can deal with the perpetrators, because this is just not good enough for our society.

“Schools and churches are places that are supposed to be sacred in our society; how can people think that it is just okay to vandalise [them]? These are the very institutions that help to socialise us, so what is it that we’re saying [by doing this]?” he added.

Observer has reached out to education officials for comment on the incident, and for response to the calls for improved security.

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