Thu | Feb 27, 2020

Letter of the Day | Wake up community to protect our children

Published:Saturday | September 8, 2018 | 12:00 AM


The American cartoonist, Lynda Barry, wrote an excellent piece, 'The sanctuary of school', which was first published in The New York Times in 1992. In it, she recounts her dysfunctional family situation. She relates how one morning, she, at age seven, and her brother sneaked out of their house before sunrise. This was the first time that she sneaked out.

Ironically, I read sections from this piece to my wife not more than two weeks before the demise of Yetanya Francis.

Barry says: "In a perfect world, my absence at home would not have gone unnoticed. I would have had two parents in a panic to locate me, instead of two parents in a panic to locate an answer to the hard question of survival during a deep financial and emotional crisis.

"But in an overcrowded and unhappy home, it's incredibly easy for any child to slip away. The high levels of frustration, depression and anger in my house made my brother and me invisible."




Sadly, in Jamaica, some schools do not even represent a sanctuary as marauding gunmen use these campuses as an escape route or attacks are made on students and/or teachers.

Barry continues:"I was lucky. I had Mrs LeSane. I had Mr Gunderson (the custodian). I had an abundance of art supplies. And I had a particular brand of neglect in my home that allowed me to slip away and get to them. But what about the rest of the kids who weren't as lucky? What happened to them?"

Of course, Barry writes about the United States. But there are amazing parallels in Jamaica.

I don't believe that Yetanya sneaked out of her house. I believe that an adult in her household sent her to a "neighbouring shop". Whatever the circumstances of her being out after 8 p.m., the community should have kicked in. But no! Yetanya met the kind of barbaric death that is usually associated with dysfunctional sections of dysfunctional cities.

Up to the end of August, we had 33 deaths of children and 150 rapes (Did I get that right?), 33 in the summer holidays alone.

Parliamentarians who are eager to represent garrisons have a solemn responsibility and can't just bury their heads in the sand. They know what is going on. It is an indictment on them and on this country.

I end how Barry would have ended. At the beginning of each term and on special occasions, sometimes every Monday morning, children around this country sing the national anthem and recite the national pledge. When will this country look our children in the eye and say a pledge right back and mean it?