Suggestions for political manifestos
It is customary for politicians to banter about national issues and field all sorts of ludicrous accusations and speculations at their opponents, especially when an election is imminent. Too many of our politicians use their positions and every opportunity they get to blame their predecessors, and point fingers at everyone but themselves in an attempt to scapegoat, thereby abdicating their portfolio responsibilities. We have become so accustomed to this often vulgar behaviour that we accept lousy statements which only compete for the most sensational headline of the day in print and electronic media. Truthfully, the utility and efficacy of this banter is to stroke egos while we sit and wait with bated breath for actions to be taken on some critical matters that we have been vacillating about for eons.
I am therefore recommending that political parties take into consideration the following urgent actions for inclusion in their party manifestos:
Sexual Harassment Act
Governor General Sir Patrick Allen, in the Throne Speech this year, promised that in an attempt to "provide legal protection for persons at the workplace and other institutions [,]" the Sexual Harassment Act would come to Parliament this year. It is well known that sexual harassment which is widespread on the street, in workplaces, churches, and in other spaces needs urgent attention. A plethora of articles and letters published in this paper and discussed elsewhere is evidence of the desperate need to treat with the issue of sexual harassment.
The bill for the Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) Evidence Act, 2015 was tabled earlier this year in Parliament. A bill which is to 'provide for the keeping, maintaining, and operating of a consolidated forensic DNA databank, to be known as the National DNA Register, for the purposes of forensic investigation and human identification' should never have taken such a long time. We really need to do more to enhance the police's investigative capabilities, and this is a critical piece of legislation.
Bullying in schools
The recent report on bullying in schools, titled 'Investigating the Prevalence and Impact of Peer Abuse (Bullying) on the Development of Jamaican Children', which was commissioned by the Child Development Agency (CDA), shows very clearly that more needs to be done to engender a safer learning environment for our children. The study found that 64.9 per cent of students reported having "ever" been bullied with 70 per cent of them reporting that, at the time of the study, they were bullied within the school year just ending. Bullying is a pervasive issue and its effects are many. The Ministry of Education has done a commendable job over the years in relation to violence; however, not much has been done to tackle bullying. I am delighted that some findings and recommendation have already been incorporated in some initiatives/programmes at the Ministry of Education because teachers cannot continue to wait until bullying escalate to a critical incident to pursue remedies to reduce its incidence in our schools.
The spotlight has not been on such a serious issue despite lots of talk about the poor and most vulnerable. In fact, while there have been many reports about the myriad challenges being faced by LGBT people who are homeless, very little is discussed about how we are providing and caring for those who live and work on the streets. Our response to addressing homelessness is woefully lacking. More needs to be done to increase the number of spaces available for shelter and diversify the programmes being offered.
Disparity in educational outcomes for poorer children
The Report Card on Education in Jamaica that was published by the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CaPRI) in 2012 shows that there is commendable investment in education by successive governments. However, this does not necessarily translate to any kind of significant improvement in the educational outcomes for children who are from poorer families. More to address this matter if we truly want to be a prosperous country and ensure that every child has an equal opportunity to realise their fullest potential.
Prioritise special needs
One hopes that the Disabilities Act can be gazetted before the next election. We need to see greater allocation/spending for people with disabilities. Some commendable initiatives have been undertaken but much more needs to be done. Steps should be taken to ensure more schools and government buildings are accessible for people with disabilities. We need to ensure that health facilities and the justice system can adequately accommodate them as well.