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MARCH ALONE WON'T HELP...Philanthropist says more needs to be done to protect our children

Published:Saturday | May 16, 2015 | 5:00 AMShanique Samuels
Clarendon-based philanthropist Otis James.
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MAY PEN, Clarendon:

OTIS JAMES of the James and Friends Education Programme has said more emphasis needs to be placed on vulnerable children.

"This month is being celebrated as Child Month and I notice that the main focus is on missing, abused, and dead children. But what about those who are alive and need help? What about those who are lingering in the communities, not going to school and are falling victims to gang violence, rape, and human trafficking?" James questioned.

He added: "We need to reach out to these underprivileged, vulnerable youth and try to steer them in a positive direction before they become statistics of these horrible crimes." James said these same children end up being on the police most wanted list for committing major crimes.

The philanthropist said he is deeply concerned about the way in which the future of the country is being targeted.

"We can't sit and wait until the children are missing or dead before we try to do something about it. It's not all about marching and calling for justice and implementing stronger legislation to protect the youth, some of who commit these crime participate in the march too. It's about reaching out to them before they are consumed by gangs or get pregnant and drop out of school. We, as adults, need to come together and find a way to educate these children so that they can make positive decisions about their lives.

not attending school

He said there are many children in his community - Effortville - who are not attending school. The main reason behind that, he said, is that many of them are placed in schools too far outside their community.

"Some students have to travel up to 25 miles to get to school each day, and many of the parents cannot afford it, so they end up going only one or two days. The students are placed in schools based on their GSAT (Grade Six Achievement Test) grades and most times, it's not feasible for the parents to send them. Some schools that are close to home are not taking the children because of their low averages, the schools need to stop thinking about average and reputation and make the youths education a priority. I know, based on my work with these children, that all of them have the potential to do well, but they are not given a fair and equal chance to do so," he lamented.

Added James: "I get letters daily from persons seeking to get help for their children. But many of these requests cannot be honoured because the programme is already burdened and the resources are stretched across approximately 200 children who are currently benefiting through the programme".

"We can't keep focusing on those children that are dead, while I sympathise with the families of those murdered children, let us try to put some of that energy into looking out for those who are still alive and need the help. We don't want it to reach the stage where they die, then we try to do something, let us give them a chance from now. So when we focus on Child Month, these are some of the things we need to look at. Get social workers to go into the communities and talk to the parents and into the schools and talk to the teachers and see what strategies can be implemented to fix the situation or else we going to end up doing a lot more than marching to protect these children. "

familyandreligion@gleanerjm.com