Editorial

Violence tearing away at the innocence of our youth

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

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The emotional toll that violence is taking on our children is most heart-rending. There's no doubt that their experiences will leave them with deep scars.

What we can hope for is that any counselling and psychiatric care offered to these children will counter the bad experiences to the point that the pain and suffering they are now undergoing do not remain with them for the rest of their lives.

But, even as we embrace that hope, the country cannot ignore the source of the damage being inflicted on these young, fragile minds, and on everyone else for that matter.

When a child resorts to sitting alone in a room at school crying that he doesn't wish to be there because of the violence in his community, while his schoolmates at devotion testify to the violence affecting them, you know we have a serious problem.

When these same students can tell you, without hesitation, that they don't believe the police can protect them, that is an indication that we have an even bigger problem. For if they, at this stage of their lives, have little faith in the agents of the State responsible for their safety, how will they view the country and contribute to its development when they become adults?

The principal at Effortville Primary School in Clarendon — a parish that has been upended by deadly violence in the past few months — told us on Monday of one of his grade six students who has undergone too much trauma for his age.

According to the principal, Mr Adrian Sinclair, the student was shot and injured by gunmen and was in hospital for an extended time. “Before that, he lost his mother, although not to violence. His stepfather was also shot. So for him to undergo so much at one time, it's horrible,” Mr Sinclair said.

He also pointed to the dwindling enrolment at the school due to parents' fears of the effect violence is having on their children.

This week's Sunday Observer told the story of children affected by violence in Rockfort, a community in east Kingston that has been experiencing bloody clashes between rival gangs over the summer months.

One 17-year-old girl told our reporter that she had never before heard so many gunshots.

A nine-year-old girl said the experience reduced her to tears. A friend of her mother's, she said, was killed in the senseless fighting. She appealed to the gunmen to “stop the killing” as she was very afraid to sleep at night.

All the children in Rockfort with whom the Sunday Observer spoke said their entire summer holiday was spent in fear, as they had to hide under their beds whenever the gangs started fighting. They are not being allowed to grow up like normal children.

When we, as adults, stand by and give the criminal scum free passage to kill and maim, deny our children of their innocence, and generally smear Jamaica's name, we are basically handing over control of the country to them.

Are you, as parents, willing to see these terrorists continue to dictate how your children grow up, or force you to change the way you go about your lawful business, or, indeed, how you live?

We reiterate that every law-abiding Jamaican, regardless of your address, has a role to play in ridding our country of these criminals. This is not something to be politicised. Those who are currently doing so should think of their country first, not their political party.

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