Armed and dangerous - Seven of 10 boys in informal poll take knives to school in Corporate Area
An informal survey conducted by a peace facilitator at the Dispute Resolution Foundation (DRF) has found seven of 10 schoolboys in the Corporate Area carrying a knife to school, while a similar number said they had seen and held an illegal gun.
Orlando Hamilton said he conducted the survey of boys between the ages of 14 and 17 because he was concerned about the number of students being suspended from school after getting involved in fights or because they were found with a weapon.
As a facilitator for the DRF School Suspension Programme, which sees on average about 100 students being admitted from Corporate Area schools monthly, Hamilton said he wanted to get a better understanding as to the reasons for conflicts in secondary schools.
The reasons for taking a knife to school ranged from wanting to defend themselves from bullies to wanting to protect themselves against students from other schools.
"Another student brought a knife to school and threaten me, saying he's going to stab me up, so I brought a knife the next day to defend myself," said one student.
When asked how many of them actually used a knife to hurt someone at school, two answered in the affirmative.
STABBED IN CHEST
Of the two who had actually used a knife to inflict injuries on others, the first said he stabbed another student once in the chest because he had used a blade from a sharpener to cut him the day before.
"A student box me up while I was walking on the road. The next day, he saw me at school and box me up again, so I went to buy a knife in the afternoon and when he saw me and tried to take away my phone, I stabbed him twice. I was charged by the police and I slept a night in jail," recounted the second student.
But knives are not the only weapons being used in schools as several of the boys admitted that they have used a chair, a cricket bat or a piece of board to injure someone at school.
Five of the 10 boys said, too, that they had actually hurt someone in their community. In the case of community disputes, a stone was the weapon most used, but at times knives were brought into play to inflict wounds.
Late last year, 16-year-old Eric Morris of Grants Pen Road was stabbed to death by a 14-year-old boy when he went to purchase ice cream in his community.
This followed a previous dispute between the two boys. The 14-year-old was, up to last week, still on the run.
Several stabbing incidents have also taken place at the Half-Way Tree Transport Centre this past year.
"A student draw gun at me in Half-Way Tree because of the friends I have in Grants Pen. He tried to kill me, but the gun stick. This happened right at the bus park. This was the reason why I carried a knife to protect myself," one student who was polled said.
Even more frightening for the peace facilitator is the fact that eight out of the 10 students polled said they have actually seen an illegal gun, and seven reported that they had actually touched one. Of these boys, five had actually fired a gun before.
"Most of the homes that we see children coming from are headed by females and a lot of the students have no father figure giving support, and I believe that pressure on the mother causes pressure to be exerted on the child," Hamilton said.