If we would only care for each other

Monday, October 26, 2015

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THOSE in positions of leadership in Jamaica have much to say from time to time about national development goals.

Those aspirations aren't only about the creation of wealth, reduction of debt to sustainable levels, attainment of economic stability, job creation, and crime reduction.

Most importantly, it has to be about lifting the quality of life for all Jamaicans to a decent and acceptable level. It must involve the creation, over time, of a system which ensures that the most vulnerable -- including the very young and old -- have access to the basic necessities including food, shelter and health care.

Crucially, there must be access to education for all our children.

The story headlined 'Children not sent to school for two years' in this week's Sunday Observer is a reminder that this country is way behind when it comes to taking care of the basic needs of its most vulnerable.

It is also a reminder that this drive towards a society with a relatively developed social welfare system must be paralleled by a mature sense of caring, one for the other, by Jamaicans at all levels.

As the situation now stands, it's not that Jamaicans who are better off don't recognise the pitiable plight of so many around them. The trouble is that most would rather not have to bother about it.

For those who missed it, the story to which we are drawing attention is about a father of two, Mr Antonio Harris, who has taken sole responsibility of his two young children after their mother died.

The disturbing tale told by Mr Harris to the Sunday Observer is that he is unable to send his two children to school because he has not located their birth certificates and other relevant documents. Indeed, he has no evidence they were ever registered.

Obviously an absentee father until the death of the children's mother, Mr Harris apparently cannot say for sure if his children ever attended school.

It's easy to dismiss the entire episode as an obvious case of poor parenting. But we have no choice but to feel that there is considerable ignorance at play here -- for which the society is ultimately culpable.

And what about the community? Didn't the neighbours who told Mr Harris his children were suffering from neglect see it fit to call in the childcare agencies?

We expect that by now those agencies are actively on the case. They will know that there are other similar cases out there.

As a nation, as a people, Jamaica needs to do so much better.


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