Students from Chaguanas North Secondary School are developing an anti-bullying app that will allow anonymous reporting of bullying in schools.
The app will also provide online counselling and immediate help and has received commendation from Assistant to the Charge` d` Affairs of the United States Embassy Monica Morse.
Speaking to reporters at the Caribbean Colour Splash Secondary Schools Anti-Bullying conference held at SAPA in San Fernando yesterday, Morse said she will speak to officials at the Embassy to provide further support.
"I am so impressed. What an amazing app! I never heard of anything like this before. I am so glad that children have an anonymous way to get the help that they need," she said. Morse added, " I think children are facing suicide because of bullying and they need inspiration and guidance. The app will provide this. It is something that we need because it takes a village to bring up a child," Morse added.
She said even though she is yet to get the official word of the Embassy, she intended to make representation for the anti-bullying programme to be taken across all schools.
"We are involved with the T&T Police Service and we are doing some work with anti-bullying programmes. We intend to provide all the support we can," Morse added.
Saying it was important for students to understand the effects of bullying, Morse said she was bullied as a child after her father committed suicide in a public place.
She said other children bullied her until college and because she felt no self-worth, she married a man who also physically and emotionally abused her.
Morse said she was able to break free from the cycle of being a victim of bullying by developing self-respect and self-love.
Albert Marshall, project manager for Caribbean Colour Splash said the app is the brainchild of the students of Chaguanas North Secondary.
"They are developing it and we are only providing a platform for them to introduce it. It is a prototype and it will be launched in their own school first before they roll it out to other schools," Marshall said.
He noted that the anti-bullying conference was meant to end bullying in schools.
"We have been sharing strategies which students can apply immediately to end bullying. The app is being developed by the students and the purpose is to get students to respond and acknowledge bullying as soon as it happens," Marshall said.
He added that the students will be able to anonymously alert guidance counsellors to what is happening in their schools
Contacted yesterday, school teacher Tiffany Ali said the students were part of a group called Be Different led by herself and another teacher Belinda Gordon.
She said the students Seanelle Regis, Lawanda John and Shau`ri Gordon assisted by Ravin Ramsingh of Fatima College, have already designed the app. She noted that the idea originated from a national competition called Girls in ICT in which the students won first place with their idea.
The students then entered another competition sponsored by the Inter-American Development Bank called Start-up Weekend and won US$10,000 to bring their idea to fruition.
Three app developers were consulted and Ali said the app is currently being developed. However, she said additional funding was needed.
"We are trying to get the app built out and we will launch it in three pilot schools to see how it is going. We don't have enough funding. We are working out the finances and working with local developers about the features we want. We will be thankful if we get funding and we hope to roll out the app nationally by next year," Ali said.
- by Radhica De Silva