Tue | Jan 21, 2020

SCHOOL SAFETY AUDIT - Education ministry pledges review of service-vehicle protocol by early 2020

Published:Monday | December 9, 2019 | 12:38 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
Mourners take a final look at Benjamin Bair before the carriage departed from the North Street Seventh-day Adventist Church in Kingston for burial at Dovecot Memorial Park on Sunday.
Sisters of the late Benjamin Bair, Seraphine (left) and Areba, at the family's Ivy Road, Kingston, home on Sunday.
1
2

The Government has commenced a comprehensive review of safety and security regulations in public schools in the wake of the tragic death of a seven-year-old student at Clan Carthy Primary in October.

Addressing mourners at the funeral of Benjamin Bair at the North Street Seventh-day Adventist Church in Kingston, the chief technocrat in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information said that a plan of action would be launched when the review had been completed.

“We have already started the process to review our safety and security procedures at all levels to ensure we protect our children,” said Dr Grace McLean, permanent secretary.

McLean told The Gleaner after the service that when the review has been completed, a decision would be made “very early next year”.

Though not offering details on the terms of reference targeted in the review, McLean said, “One area has to do with the times at which service vehicles go on to school compounds and if they actually have to go on the compounds any at all.

“Before we can say anything definitive, we have to do a full audit of the system,” she said.

The tragic circumstances that led to the boy’s death sparked scrutiny of ministry policies governing school safety.

Benjamin was killed at his school on October 28 by an unmanned garbage truck that mysteriously sped off before crashing into a taxi, overturning, and crushing the boy. A parent in the taxi also sustained injuries.

Benjamin’s funeral was attended by scores of mourners, including former schoolmates who poured out their hearts in tribute. Students and teachers from other schools, like the nearby Jessie Ripoll Primary, also paid their respects.

“I remember it vividly like it was yesterday when that garbage truck came and took our friend away. Nuh worry yourself, Benjamin. See you some day,” said former schoolmates during the recitation of a poem.

His stepfather, Wayne Williams, stood stoically by the side of Benjamin’s mother, Japhene Campbell, who was overcome with grief before and throughout the funeral.

Benjamin’s remains were interred at the Dovecot Memorial Park in St Catherine.

Investigators assigned to the Kingston Eastern Police Division have charged the driver of the truck that claimed the seven-year-old’s life. He is 52-year-old Alten Brooks of Nine Miles in Bull Bay, St Andrew.

Campbell and relatives have been tight-lipped on whether the family will sue the Government for the boy’s death.

Their attorney, Jacqueline Cummings, told The Gleaner that the family would give that consideration after the burial.

“Right now, we are dealing with the family’s grief and dealing with the funeral arrangements. We are not ready to discuss that (a possible lawsuit) just yet,” said Cummings.

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com