Protect our children here and abroad
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 sin" 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 the distressing reports last week that a shopkeeper takes in a 12-year-old runaway, imprisons her, and pimps her, and 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 Teachers' 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 ny 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.
Big boost for Jamaica from EU
Europe Day, last Friday, was a very good one for Jamaica, when EU Ambassador Paola Amadei signed over more than 75 million euros ($11.5 billion) in development assistance. This covers six financing agreements to support the sugar sector; enhance security and justice, social projects, trade; and strengthen the Government's technical capacity through the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ).
In thanking the EU, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller noted that, in the 39 years of partnership, Jamaica had received a total of approximately one billion euros. She said Europe is Jamaica's largest source of grant funding, and celebrated their shared values and respect for human rights.
At an earlier celebration of the day, Ambassador Amadei shared that, this year, there were three notable anniversaries: "It is 100 years ago that Europe saw the beginning of one of history's deadliest conflicts, the First World War. Countries that were once fighting each other now form a close union based on common values, with a robust single market, its own legal system and institutions...In November this year we will also mark a second historic anniversary, 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, which has come to symbolise the end of the Cold War...The third anniversary we commemorated on 1st May is 10 years of the EU's biggest enlargement ever, when 10 new members — mostly from Central and Eastern Europe — were welcomed into the Union."
That leap in membership had caused great trepidation "that nearly doubling the size of the EU would lead to a breakdown, blockage or collapse of the whole European project".
"None of them proved true," she said. "The European Union, with 28 member states and more than half-a-billion inhabitants, is stronger than before." Now isn't that a great message for us, the people of the Caribbean, to forge ahead for a stronger union?
SSP Forbes — so much sadness
The news that Senior Superintendent James Forbes was, on Friday, found guilty of perverting the course of justice has sent shockwaves through Jamaica. Many know the man to be a trained mediator. Even if he made a mistake on this occasion, we were hoping a reprimand would have served the purpose. My last meeting with SSP Forbes was a few months before the incident. I had visited his office to discuss a neighbourhood watch programme for the seniors in CCRP Jamaica. He was attentive and cooperative, explaining that he had been raised by his late grandmother, and had a special love for the elderly. I do hope his sentence will either be suspended or take the form of community service. He has been a great servant of his beloved country and a mentor to so many troubled youth.
Generous Island Grill customers
Those Island Grill customers who have been putting money in the Food for the Poor boxes located at the restaurants islandwide can feel good that their 'one-one coco' accumulated to house a family in Clarendon. Last Saturday, the Island Grill team, led by their beautiful, brainy founder Thalia Lyn journeyed to Cemetery Road in May Pen to finish the two-bedroom house started by the Food for the Poor Construction Division. The deserving recipient is 60-year-old Horace Johnson, a single father of three children, ages 6 to 17. He is a janitor at the Bustamante High School and is happy that he will be able to raise his children in better living conditions. Thalia also organised donations of a stove and a refrigerator from the NCB Foundation -- a kind collaboration!