Fri | Sep 22, 2017

Outraged! - Education minister calls on society to protect nation’s children; rubbishes cell phone argument

Published:Sunday | October 30, 2016 | 10:56 AMAndrew Harris
Ruel Reid
Nicholas Francis
Teachers, guidance counsellors and police personnel console students in grief at Jamaica College on Thursday. They were mourning the murder of 14-year-old Nicholas Francis in a bus robbery.
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Although Mayor of Kingston Angela Brown Burke is appealing for parents to “instruct their children to desist from the practice of taking cell phone(s) to school unless it’s absolutely necessary”, Minister of Education Ruel Reid is not in favour of that argument. He pointed out that the nation’s children are being targeted for far less than a cell phone, and he implored the country to stand up for them.

“I will not take that type of argument that they can’t take the electronic devices to school. As a matter of fact, when I was a principal at Jamaica College, the parents called for the need to take their cell phones to school for their own safety,” the minister told The Sunday Gleaner yesterday.

“Students have been held up for their lunch money before, or even the pair of shoes they (were) wearing. We have to stand up against these types of actions because this is our nation.”

Over the past week, six students were reportedly held up and robbed, one of whom was killed. On Wednesday, 14-year-old Jamaica College student Nicholas Francis was stabbed to death for his cell phone.

Two other Jamaica College students were also held up and robbed of their possessions; and a fourth-form Kingston College student, Marvin Bloomfield, was held up, robbed, and stabbed on Friday evening.

NEED FOR PUBLIC SAFETY

Reid said these attacks on the students call to attention the need for public safety.

“There will have to be a focus and deliberate response,” said Reid. “I am equally very concerned and outraged at the situation.”

He charged the nation to stand up and let these unlawful persons realise that law-abiding citizens outnumber them and are not threatened by their actions, but rather will not tolerate these forms of behaviour.

Close to the same period last year, 22-year-old University of Technology student Shanique Walters was brutally shot dead by criminals after they attempted to rob her.

Errol Holmes, president of the Jamaica College Parent-Teacher Association, said “a reward totalling $1 million is being offered by the Jamaica College family, in partnership with the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica through Crime Stop, for the arrest and charge of the person who stabbed and killed 14-year-old Jamaica College student Nicholas Francis on October 26, while travelling home on a Coaster bus on Old Hope Road in Kingston.

“Anyone with information can call Crime Stop at 311. You don’t have to give your name, just tell what you know. We want this person in custody now and are prepared to pay out the reward within 24 hours of his capture.”

In a show of solidarity, tomorrow several schools will join in protest themed ‘Violence Against Jamaica’s Children Must Stop Now!’

andrew.harris@gleanerjm.com