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Stabroek News

Sex in schools a growing problem
published: Friday | February 29, 2008

Athaliah Reynolds, Staff Reporter

Amid several incidents of violence and sexual perversion in the island's educational institutions, another videotape has surfaced which shows two students at a Jamaican high school involved in a sexual act.

The amateur tape, which appears to have been recorded by another student with a cellphone, has been circulating via the Internet for several weeks.

This has raised cries of concern from several education officials who believe the incident is a reflection of a general breakdown in the society.

Full view of students

The recording, which is a little over three minutes long, shows a female student sprawled on a staircase, legs apart, with a boy dressed in khaki uniform having unprotected sex with her.

The voices of other students can be heard in the background, instructing the duo on what to do. Both the girl and boy, at separate points in the tape, turn their faces to the camera; the girl flashes a smile in the process.

Amazingly, this was being done in full view of several younger students, who appear to be under 10 years old, who were constantly walking by the staircase.

The tape is among a slew of similar recordings being circulated via both the Internet and cellphones, which involve very graphic images of students in sex acts.

Dr Charlene Ashley, communi-cations director at the Ministry of Education, said persons must be aware that what they are viewing is, in fact, child pornography and carnal abuse.

"Anyone who views this really has a responsibility to report it to the Children's Registry," she appealed. "These are children that we are speaking about. They are underage and cannot consent to sex under the age of 16."

Conducting investigation

Ashley said Minister of Education Andrew Holness, after being made aware of the recordings, reported the incident to the police.

"He also spoke to the Children's Advocate (Mary Clarke)," she said.

She said the chief education officer would also be conducting an investigation into the incident in order to administer the necessary intervention programmes.

Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Herfa Beckford, the officer in charge of the Centre for Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse, said she has also seen a copy of the tape and the matter is being investigated.

DSP Beckford said that, under the Offences Against the Person Act, a boy who is 14 years and older could be charged for carnal abuse if he is found to be having sexual relations with a girl under the age of consent. In Jamaica, the age of consent is 16 years old.

She however pointed out that, if both individuals are under the age of consent, by law they can be taken into custody and brought before the Family Court.

"With the behaviour that is displayed (on the tape), we can take them in for care and protection because it is deemed that they are children without any guardianship," she said.

'Mind-boggling' behaviour

Sylvester Anderson, president of the National Parent-Teachers' Association of Jamaica (NPTAJ), said he too has seen a copy of the video and finds it 'mind-boggling'.

"It's a sad situation," said Anderson.

The NPTAJ president said this and other such incidents speak to a multifaceted problem that is present throughout the country.

"It speaks to an issue of values, whether these children have any value of themselves and respect for their own lives."

He said, however, that these children should not be expelled from school but should receive counselling.

Anderson said this also highlights the problem of cellphone usage in schools and again called for restrictions to be placed on the type of phones allowed to students.

Dr Grace Kelly, chairman of the Behavioural Sciences Department at the Northern Caribbean University, said students who were involved in such acts needed psychiatric evaluation.

"Nobody in their rightful mind would do an act like that and feel proud about it," she said. "Something is wrong and (we) probably need to check to see whether or not these students have access to drugs," she said.

Kelly said it was not normal for individuals to behave in such a way unless it was done under some sort of duress or other kind of influence.

Moral fibre

Jennifer Willie, head of the Jamaica Association of Guidance Counsellors in Education, said the whole moral fibre of society has broken down and this is being reflected in the behaviour of children.

She said the problem of pornographic material is a concern in the island's schools, as teachers have to often confiscate such material from students.

Give information

Anyone who has received pornographic material including underage children is being asked to contact the Child Registry at 1888 PROTECT(1-888-776-8328).

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