Wed | Aug 16, 2017

End 'informa fi dead' culture - Coalition against attacks on children outlines recommendations to end violence

Published:Wednesday | November 2, 2016 | 11:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin
Some of the students who took part in Monday's peaceful protest on Hope Road in St Andrew against attacks on children.

A coalition of parent-teacher associations and other groups pushing for an end to violence against children is pleading for an end to the 'informa fi dead' culture - a practice believed to have played a role in the death of 14-year-old Jamaica College (JC) student Nicholas Francis.

Errol Holmes, president of the JC Parent-Teacher Association, said the 'informa fi dead' culture has stifled the development of the country, as it leaves persons afraid to report crimes. He also said law-abiding citizens cannot allow the bad in society to outweigh the good.

Holmes was addressing a press conference held yesterday at the Ministry of Education, Heroes Circle, held to outline recommendations to protect the nation's children going forward.

Francis was killed by a man attempting to rob him while they were aboard a green Toyota Coaster bus in the vicinity of Blue Castle Drive on Old Hope Road in St Andrew.

The suspect in Francis' murder, Quacie Hart, has been charged and is set to appear in court on Friday.

Holmes made a passionate plea for citizens to take back the country in order to create a conducive environment for young people.

"We are making a strident call to civil society to resist this philosophy called 'informa fi dead'. When good people don't speak because of the fear of bad people, bad people rule. Two per cent (of people) are bad and 98 per cent are good, but when the 98 per cent are frozen into inactivity and fear, the two per cent lead," he said.

'IT CANNOT CONTINUE'

"My son turned 16 yesterday (Monday) and I hugged him and prayed for him this morning (Tuesday), but Xavier Francis (Nicholas' father) doesn't have his son. Nicholas was on a bus filled with adults and students and they allowed him to be dragged from the back, abused in the middle, stabbed on the step, thrown from the bus with a broken hand and did nothing," he said.

He added: "It cannot continue, and I think a lot of that is because people feel if they talk they are going to end up the same way (dead). We must take back our country and, in addition to taking back our country, there is something called citizen's arrest, we must exercise that."

Said Holmes: "One man can't kill 20 people unless he's Samson (in the Bible)."

He also argued that he believed that all schools should implement a spiritual committee in their institutions.

"There's a model at the St Andrew High School (for Girls). They have a spiritual committee which meets on a regular basis to pray over the children at the school and to ask God for guidance. It has been my belief that it is God who has been leading this nation and it is our God who will help us, and I think it is a good thing for us to call on the name of God," he said.

"I think that is something that I'm going to recommend at our next PTA meeting, that we, with immediate effect, consider very strongly to put in place a spiritual committee and look at how God will use us," he declared.

Minister of Education Ruel Reid, in his response, noted that he was in agreement with the recommendations and indicated that he would be working to ensure that everything was done to protect the nation's children.

Reid also said he was in discussion with Minister of Transport Mike Henry about establishing a sustainable bus system for students.

jodi-ann.gilpin@gleanerjm.com

Proposed Recommendations

The Jamaica College Parent-Teacher Association, National Parent-Teacher Association of Jamaica, Violence Prevention Alliance, Hear The Children's Cry, Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica.

1. Amendment to the relevant legislation to provide stiffer penalties for convicted perpetrators of violence towards children.

2. Immediate implementation of 'student-only' Jamaica Urban Transit Company buses during peak hours in the mornings and evenings - much like the Government of Jamaica benefit for its employees.

3. The hiring of transportation marshals (similar to the US Air Marshals who ride US state and public vehicles in an ad hoc manner).

4. Initiate legislation requiring all public passenger vehicles to have installed dashboard cameras similar to those in the US school bus and public transport system and police vehicles. This must be a condition for the insurance of all road licences, with sanctions in instances of breach.

5. A police post in the Half-Way Tree Transport Centre and general bus terminus points. These should be outfitted with cameras.

6. A general call for greater parental carpooling (to be discussed and mapped through the NPTAJ and individual PTAs).

7. Greater police patrols along bus routes during school morning and evening hours.

8. An overhaul of the Grade Six Achievement Test student distribution and a team work with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information to explore and fund logistics of community schooling.

9. A review or relaxation of the public-private sector work schedule arrangements to facilitate parental pick-ups for those who drive. This initiative should be driven through the PSOJ, in partnership with the public-sector reform programme, trade unions and corporate Jamaica.

10. A call to corporate Jamaica through their human resource and employee welfare programmes to sponsor after-school facilities for school-age children of their employees to provide a supervised safe haven for them until the workday for parents/guardians is completed.

11. All schools, through their PTAs, to immediately form a spiritual committee to pray over and promote the spiritual growth and welfare of Jamaica's children.

12. A review of the school curriculum where life skills are taught.

13. Strident call to civil society to reject the 'informa fi dead' mentality and promote a socially correct activist stance.

14. A call for partnership led by the PSOJ-GOJ and the NPTAJ to support funding for reward programmes for information leading to the arrest and charge of all perpetrators of crimes against children.

15. A call to all persons who witness crimes committed against children to video or photograph such acts for the sole intent of capturing a clear picture of face(s) and actions of perpetrators and submitting same to the police or Crime Stop to assist in the identification, charge and eventual conviction of the perpetrators.