Teacher assaulted at school on slow road to recovery By Iana Seales
Stabroek News
July 5, 2004

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Brian Balgobin, the teacher who was assaulted by a student at the Lodge Community High School two months ago has found the road to recovery bumpy and protracted.

Clobbered in the head by a third form student of the city school in March, the young teacher was hospitalised for days with a swollen head but appeared to be fine until he suffered a nervous breakdown.

The mental collapse caused Balgobin to be hospitalised again while grappling with yet another concern; having to skip final examinations at the University of Guyana where he is pursuing a degree in Business Management.

He recently told Stabroek News that he is being treated for the breakdown. Though the process is extended he said that therapy has helped him find `ground again' and he has been able to perform normal activities.

After missing the exams, his was re-scheduled and he is currently completing his finals. But his concentration level has taken a blow and this has impacted on studies. The teacher said that he now has trouble focusing and no longer studies for lengthy periods.

Two months after the March 10 incident Balgobin is still awaiting a transfer from the Teaching Service Commission (TSC). He had earlier vowed to leave the profession if the transfer was not granted but since then he has had little time to make such a decision.

According to him he had visited the TSC on countless occasions to follow-up his request but received no positive feedback. The only response he received on one occasion was that the TSC was dealing with senior appointments.

Balgobin had expressed a desire to be transferred to Cummings Lodge Secondary, East Coast Demerara following the incident. He had said that Cummings Lodge is closer to his Industry residence and seemed a suitable relocation.

Chairman, TSC, Richard Mangar said the transfer has been granted and a letter of approval is to be dispatched to Balgobin shortly. Mangar said that the request reached the TSC around the second week in May and noted that they were handling a large number of senior appointments at the time. Though Balgobin might have been a priority case, he said it was never brought to his attention that the teacher had been checking with the TSC. However, after appointments were completed the matter was looked at on June 21 and the transfer was granted within a week.

Since the incident Balgobin returned to the school once and found the visit 'bitter'. He explained that his return was met with concerns and emotions - concerns from the teaching body that had supported him from the outset, and emotions from the students whom he had tutored and grown attached to.

But the time has come to take a different path, Balogin said and he is looking forward to the relocation. He pointed out that Lodge School itself was never the problem but the few indisciplined students who threatened to create havoc.

Police are still in search of his attacker, and Balogin said he has not given up hope that the boy will be found. And when that happens he said the boy should face up to his wrongdoing and be placed before the courts.

The lad went into hiding hours after attacking the teacher with a piece of wood and he has not been sighted since. Juvenile court had issued an arrest warrant for the 16-year-old who was among a gang of delinquents at the school.

Stabroek News had also visited the boy's mother with whom he lived and she denied having any knowledge of his whereabouts. The woman said then that she was disgraced by the attack on Balgobin and stressed that `the boy had turned from his upbringing'.

On the day in question Balgobin had warned the boy about violating a no-passing zone and was met with rage. The teacher withdrew and left the boy who then raised his voice in order to stage a show for his buddies. Minutes later he challenged Balgobin to a fight but before the teacher could react, he was dealt a blow to the head which sent him crashing to the ground in an unconscious state.

The boy is said to have been part of a gang in the school that was involved in numerous brawls and it was considered out of control. The police had issued a release pointing out that the gang phenomenon is a recent development in Guyana, and poses a serious danger to teachers and students.

The attack on Balgobin had sparked widespread criticism within the school's teaching body and later led to a boycott of classes by the staff.

Demanding that the student be expelled, they had staged a protest citing their safety concerns in the classroom.

Teachers at the school had confiscated knives and ice-picks from the students and had called for a constant police presence from 9 am to 3 pm in the wake of the attack on Balgobin.

However, the past two months at the school have been without incident. This came after the Education Ministry transferred 21 students from the school who were identified as delinquents, a senior teacher told Stabroek News recently.

The teacher said that the head teacher had submitted the list of offenders to the education ministry as requested and action was taken against the known delinquents. According to her the school has been able to `pick up the pieces' and move on after the March incident.