Politics at play - ECJ conducts election for head girl and head boy at Tarrant Primary
Nadine Wilson-Harris, Staff Reporter
Voting is a right usually reserved for adults, but an exception was made last week when pupils of the Tarrant Primary School in St Andrew voted, under the watchful eyes of representatives of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ), for their head prefects.
Giddy with excitement, scores of students from the upper classes at the school eagerly made their way to a polling station set up in a vacant classroom on the school compound.
As is the case for general elections, the young ones were instructed to go into a polling booth, mark their 'X' for the candidate of their choice, fold their ballots, put them into huge metal ballot boxes and dip their fingers in the ink as proof that they had exercised their franchise.
"The procedures are very much the same; the only difference is that for the identification card, we asked them to take their exercise books," explained Kerry-Kay McCatty, one of the ECJ officers who supervised the procedure.
"Voter apathy is a big problem in our democracy. So probably if the children can have this exposure from early, it would increase the likelihood that they will participate when they reach voting age," said McCatty.
There were six candidates vying for the top spots and the election was not taken lightly by the students.
"Lawd God, mi a fret," declared one grade-five student as she left the polling station. Her anxiety was twofold, as in addition to worrying about her candidates, she also wondered how she would get the ink off her finger.
For the children, there was no vote buying and the students boldly declared that they would not allow their votes to be influenced.
When she was approached by a friend wanting to know how she voted, fifth-grader Raihaanah Abdussamad retorted, "Nobody can tell me who to vote for."
The six candidates were nervous as after extensive campaigning, their fate was left to their peers and not to their teachers, who in previous years were the ones who selected the head prefects.
"I campaigned really hard. What I did was look for things that they like and what I would accomplish if I am a head girl. Not extravagant things, just fun things. Like I would lobby for us to have a fun day each term," declared Natalya Williams.
When the ballots were counted, Williams was declared the head girl with 130 votes, while Decarde Francis who secured 147 votes was declared the head boy.
Principal of the St Andrew-based institution, Thelma Porter, said the voting process was an extension of a history lesson that was given to the students on universal adult suffrage.
"We had a little dramatic presentation at our general devotion just to remind the students about that, and we had representatives of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica here to witness that, not only to sensitise them to the fact that we were allowed to vote 70 years ago back in 1944, but I thought it would be a fitting idea for them to see the actual voting taking place," said Porter.
Photos by Jermaine Barnaby/Photographer