SPANISH TOWN, St Catherine:
REGARDLESS OF their background, the effects of crime and violence on children are long-term and far-reaching. Too often, they are left emotionally scarred and develop an attitude of fear and insecurity by acts of crime and violence, especially if carried out in their milieu.
This is an ongoing challenge faced by students at Friendship Primary School located on Fairfield Road, in Spanish Town, St Catherine.
"Fairfield Road in itself is crime infested, just two Friday nights ago a murder took place just next door to the school, the following Sunday, there was a shooting at the school gate itself, where a woman was shot, and a few months ago, a murder took place at the school gate, during school hours," Collington Powell, the institution's principal detailed.
Apart from the intermittent eruption of violence in the institution's vicinity, a large number of the 1,670 student population lives in communities plagued by this unnecessary malevolence.
Guidance counsellors, Rose Brown and Regina Johnson whose days are occupied with providing consolation, believe their exposure to violence have long-lasting and damaging effects.
"They are exposed to violence, we see it manifesting in their behaviour, many of them are victims directly and indirectly and we see where it has a negative impact on how they relate to other students," said Brown.
According to Powell, principal since February 2012, sometimes it gets even worse.
"The students manifest the criminality in the community. We see pockets of extortion. We see the older ones, if we are not very careful prey on the smaller ones, tricking them into taking away their money, fighting and so on is actually prevalent," he noted.
This was one of the reasons the institution, spearheaded by the guidance counselling department hosted its inaugural prayer breakfast themed, 'Spiritual, Physical and Educational Restoration', on the school's grounds last Sunday.
"We recognise the need for this spiritual empowerment, we realise that many of our teachers are frustrated, they have been doing everything as human beings, but we recognise that they need that kind of power outside of themselves," added Brown, an elder at the Diamond Acres Seventh-day Adventist Church.
In addition to praise and worship sessions, and a testimony by motivational speaker Merl Lowe, several persons offered specific prayers for each sector of the school population and the community.
"We wanted to present before God, specific needs, we didn't want it to be general. We had special prayers for the grieving, for teachers, ancillary workers, the secretary, administrators, parents, overall the stakeholders of the school," Brown explained to The Gleaner.
One of the highlights of the spirit-filled function was the impeccable delivery of Wonderful Merciful Saviour by 13-year-old Jashan Clarke, past student, setting the stage for riveting and poignant charge by Pastor Everett Brown, president of the Jamaica Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Speaking against the background of the theme, he encouraged the audience to repent and seek God.
Matthew King, head boy, who will be vying for a place at St Catherine High School in March, when he sits the Grade Six Achievement Test welcomed the divine intervention and hoped the students will heed the message.
"The prayer breakfast is very important because it teaches about God and it teaches children how to be respectful and behave themselves and love each other," said King.
Deputy head girl, Shanice Godden, in echoing the sentiments of her student leader, described the event as a learning experience.
"It's a great experience and it can teach others about how to pray. It can help bad children to talk to God daily and how to pray when they are down," she told The Gleaner.
For parent, Moya Gayle Allen, the event, which was free of cost was inspiring and a fitting start to the new year.
"It was spirit filled. It is something that the school definitely needs to move forward for another school year. We, as parents, need spiritual guidance and teachers need spiritual reinforcement to go through for the Holy Spirit to keep us. We are human beings and sometimes the human mind can't do everything, but with God all things are possible," she told The Gleaner.
PHOTOS BY KAREN SUDU