Will Tajay Reid be just another statistic?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

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ONLY the most callous among us would not have grieved after reading the sad story of 16-year-old Tajay Reid, published in last week's edition of the Observer & North East.

The teen died from multiple chop wounds inflicted by a man who caught him breaking into a house in Wheelerfield, a district plagued by unemployment and poverty, in St Thomas.

The script is all too familiar in Jamaica.

Residents say that Tajay Reid was "very bright, articulate and had great potential". But, like so many other youngsters in that district, he dropped out of school early because his mother could not afford to send him to high school after he completed grade nine at Bath All-Age and Junior High School in 2011.

The upshot is that he started roaming the streets because his mother, who worked in neighbouring Portland, left Tajay and his siblings in the care of their father, who was unemployed.

Young Tajay's enrolment in a three-month skills training programme being run by the HIV/STI prevention arm of the South East Regional Health Authority in Wheelerfield had offered the youngster and his family a glimmer of hope.

However, according to his mother, at the end of the three months, she could not find the daily taxi fare to have him continue at the HEART/NTA as required.

As is the case with most idle youngsters that age, Tajay started getting into trouble and, no one would be surprised, it wasn't long before his life came to a tragic end four weeks ago.

This young man's story has brought to the fore two burning issues — the importance of parenting, and the state of the economy.

We have argued it in this space repeatedly that adults must accept that they have a great responsibility to care for their offspring. Yes, parents may be having a hard time trying to make ends meet, however, that does not let them off hook. They still have a responsibility to guide and protect their children.

But just as important is the creation of economic opportunities that must come from Government policies and programmes, as well as the private sector. Tough as things are, we must redouble efforts to generate employment.

The Observer North & East story told of scores of young boys and girls idling their days away in Wheelerfield as parents are unable to afford the minimum $800 daily to send them to school.

Given what we saw in that community, it is obvious that the residents long to be employed, and as such have called on their parliamentary representative, Dr Fenton Ferguson, and the councillor, Mr Ludlow Mattison, to address that issue.

The sad reality is that there are many Wheelerfields across Jamaica. Even more depressing is the thought that the Government, strapped for cash, is unable to do much to lift those communities out of poverty.

But the Administration can craft and implement policies that will encourage investment that will, in turn, create jobs and ultimately take bright, talented, but idle Jamaicans off the streets.

The Tajay Reids and Wheelerfields of this country deserve that effort.




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