Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Protect our children here and abroad

Observer column for Mon 12 May 2014 by Jean Lowrie-Chin

The world took too long to wake up to the tragic fact that over 200 Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped by a group called ‘Boko Haram’ which means "Western education is forbidden" in the local Hausa language. The evil leader barefacedly spoke into a video camera, saying they were responsible for the kidnappings and that they would sell the girls as slaves in the market – to date, the girls have not been found. On Friday, a BBC report alleged that an alarm had been raised to the authorities four hours before the horrific incident, leaving us to wonder how influential this dangerous group could be. Our children here and abroad are subject to too much cruelty in a world that has more organisations than ever before dedicated to the protection of children.
Here in Jamaica, the Armadale story continues to haunt us – those seven young lives at a correctional institution for girls, literally gone up in smoke in May 2009. Then two distressing reports last week: a shopkeeper takes in a 12-year-old runaway, imprisons her, and pimps her!  Two of the nasty men who paid the disgusting shopkeeper impregnated the girl while she was still a minor. At 21, she is now the mother of three. To make this crime even more horrendous, the human trafficker had children of her own, whom she was sweetly sending to school, while she kept home this little girl to sell her body to her customers!
Then the very week of ‘Teacher’s Day’, Children’s Advocate Diahann Gordon-Harrison revealed at a speaking engagement, that she had information about sexual advances being made towards students by teaching professionals.  The incidence of this perverted behaviour seems to be on the increase as there were 14 in the last quarter of 2013, and now 22 from January to April of this year.  It is alarming that when the Office of the Children’s Advocate sent investigators, they are getting scant cooperation from teachers and even principals, who admit that this seems to be happening.
What a wilderness of depravity we are creating around our children! Several years ago, a recent school-leaver, about 17 years old, took a job at our office, and when we were identifying some photos to send to the press, she expressed shock when she saw a certain prominent man.  “That man invited me to his house for a job interview.  I felt comfortable to go because he said he and his wife would be happy to see me.”
She took a deep breath and said: “Then the man and his wife made sexual advances on me!”  A few weeks after she told me this story, I saw the said couple at a religious gathering looking as pious as can be. The man subsequently died - what an accounting must have been awaiting him! We must share these stories so that we know who is who in this Jamaica.
Teachers and principals must tell what they know – surely they would seek justice for their own children. With multiple cable channels and addictive internet games, we seem to have little time to be the monitors of our society.
Christmas treats alone cannot keep our children in homes safe.  We need to get our friends and co-workers together and plan to visit children’s homes regularly.  We need to turn off the television and look into our children’s eyes to see if there is any lingering hurt in them.  We need to engage them in conversation at the table, so we hear what is happening in their lives, and in the lives of their friends so they can help others to be strong.  What we say and do to our children today determines how they will face tomorrow – a child who does not know love, cannot show love, and becomes a danger to society.

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