Tue | Sep 19, 2017

Destroying our future

Published:Sunday | January 24, 2016 | 1:00 AM

One can readily recall having heard multiple times that children are our future. As a country, we must question how are we preparing them for the future or whether they will live to be the future. In the last two preceding calendar years, we have murdered more than 100 in total. Recently, Juvaine Bent, 10 years old, was brutally murdered in Portland Cottage, Clarendon. His throat was cut and his left hand severed - a most savage and barbaric murder of a defenceless child.

Even more revolting than the most recent murder is the manner in which children are being slaughtered. What does this say about our society? In addition, what does it say about you, the individual citizen, where our outrage is muted?

When we examine the callous indifference with which we treat children who are abandoned, locked away in prisons and juvenile correctional facilities, warehoused in foster care and state care, one can begin to understand this behaviour. How ironic that, currently, we are raising alarms about the potential risk to unborn children from the Zika virus, but once children are born, the society sees them as just another nuisance.

 

CHANCE INTERACTION

 

I recently had a chance interaction with a child of about 12 years old. He was sent away from school for some infringement of the rules and he was sent to an organisation that provided intervention. This organisation would offer one-on-one counselling and propose a plan for his subsequent integration back to his school community.

He spent the same day that he was sent out of school under their influence and then made his way home. He was obliged to return to the institution the following day as they were obligated to provide the paperwork to verify that he attended their facility and was suitable for reintegration into the school community.

However, there was to be an intervention at his home. On making his way home at the end of first day, he told his mother of his transgression. He reports that she lost her composure and berated him, taking out all her frustration for his transgressions, past and current. The following morning, his mother gave him a J$1 coin and sent him on his way. It was not that she could not have given him more. I met him when he had walked for more than two hours in the heat of the sun to arrive very late at the institution.

No one believed his story. He was just another unruly troublemaker. He burst into tears and walked away not knowing where he was going or what he would do to survive that day. At age 12, he was thrust into the world to survive, eat, fend for himself on J$1, and not knowing how he could navigate the system to either make it back to school or home to an angry mother and no father.

Yes, this is anecdotal, but I would suggest that these kinds of dilemma are faced by too many 12-year-olds and younger across the country, we pontificate that we have a problem with children in the society.

In this period of political meetings, it would make a great difference if some heart to heart talks about family values would be discussed. The political aspirants need to lead the way, since they have so much influence on the lives of their followers.

Dr Kim Scotty, adolescent health head of the Child Resiliency Project, and Dr Elizabeth Ward, chair of the Violence Prevention Alliance, have highlighted the need for an active programme to offer alternative educational and behavioural strategies along with financial support for children at risk. They said this would require the support of the public and private sectors and the creation of more church, school, family and community partnerships. (Jamaica Gleaner - March 4, 2015).

Jamaica's children are entitled to the care, protection, love and affection of the country, but they are very often denied this very basic fundamental right. However, the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms (Constitutional Amendment) Act, 2010 makes an obligation of all relationships with our children. It is the right of every child to public primary education and the right to enjoy a healthy, clean, productive environment, free from the threat of injury or damage from environmental abuse and degradation of the ecological heritage.

 

RIGHTS ENFORCEABLE

 

These seemingly ambitious rights are nonetheless enforceable by the charter's expressed provision for redress, not just against the State, but also in citizen litigation. (Our new Charter of Rights by Alexis Robinson, Myers, Fletcher & Gordon). It is about time that we begin to seek judicial intervention to afford our children more, much more than the degrading existence they enjoy at this time.

Let us have a public-interest law firm to define the entitlement of our children. Hold parents, parent-teacher associations, Ministry of Education, the teachers, school boards, religious organisations accountable for the current state of our children.

- Ronald Mason is an attorney-at-law and Supreme Court mediator. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and nationsagenda@gmail.com.