Jamaica 57 | Putting Jamaica’s treatment of children under the microscope 57 years after Independence
Children’s rights advocate Betty Ann Blaine remains puzzled at the fact that Jamaica continues to lack basic necessities of proper children care.
Today, the country celebrates 57 years of Independence, but Blaine remains unimpressed, especially in light of the fact that there is no proper transportation system in place for children to be taken to and from school safely.
“When you look around the country you don’t see the green spaces, parks, and playground - the different things that children need access to; books, basic things that children need, we don’t have these things, it’s distressing,” she told The Gleaner, adding that 57 years later there are not many things that promote the welfare and wellbeing of children.
She said there should be daycare centres and national after school programmes where children can go. She said at nearly 60 years old such concepts should have been implemented in a serious way.
Blaine said the country has made big improvements in the case of infant mortality and access to education where children are concerned – taking a knock at that inequality in the education system.
“We know there is a lot of inequality in the education system. They have made improvements in a few areas but when you look at the overall picture on the state of Jamaican children, one would have to say we have not made the big and important strides. Some smaller things improve, but generally speaking, the big picture hasn’t improved,” said Blaine.
The sad reality for Blaine is the children’s monument in downtown Kingston which highlights the names of children who died violently or tragically in Jamaica – that she said has run out of space. Blaine said the number of children murdered over the last two decades and increase in child sexual abuse are among the greatest concerns in Jamaica. Based on statistics, she said the country is not doing well in child protection.
“This year, Child Month, May, I don’t think we have seen so many children murdered in one month. Every year we have double digits of children murdered in our country, even though we introduced the Child Care (and Protection) Act,” she said of the legislation brought into effect in 2004 to promote the best interests, safety and well-being of children across the island.
... Government agency sees brighter side
The Child Protection & Family Services Agency (CPFSA) has a more positive outlook regarding the progress involving childcare and protection.
“Jamaica has made tremendous strides towards ensuring that there is a secured and protected environment for our children. This was achieved through a greater focus on child protection and modernising of the child protective sector,” shared Newton Douglas, director, policy, planning, and evaluation.
In 1991, Jamaica became a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which led to the enactment of the Child Care and Protection Act.
He said that led to the organisation putting in place a number of regulatory and institutional frameworks which established the CPFSA, National Children’s Registry as well as the Office of the Children’s Advocate, the commission of parliament that has oversight for matters pertaining to children.
“We have more children being enrolled in school, more schools to accommodate children, and consistent steps being taken to improve the educational product. Children additionally have greater access to health services, and at no cost. For efficiency, a number of services targeted to children are being delivered in a collaborative manner as partners network to meet children’s needs at the point of contact,” he shared.
For the past few years, violence against children has been a major problem, necessitating dialogue to get the Jamaican citizenry united around the common goal of protecting its children.
In seeking to further this mission, the Government through the Cabinet recently approved the National Plan of Action for an Integrated Response to Children and Violence which was tabled in Parliament. That plan outlines a wide array of interventions the country must carry out over the next five years to respond to the issue of violence against children, not just in the community, but in social media and in any other space.