'Citizens' curfew' for August Town students

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'Citizens' curfew' for August Town students

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

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WITH several months of no gunfire or the wails of sorrow over a brutal death, thanks to a strong police/military presence, the community of August Town in St Andrew is picking up the pieces and will, on November 2, start their “citizens' curfew”, which is geared at ensuring that no student is left behind with virtual learning.

The recommendation was one of several emanating from an October 20 meeting of the August Town Community Development Council (CDC) as the once war-torn area tries to renew itself.

CDC Chairman Andre Curtis told the Jamaica Observer that the citizens curfew will be in place between the hours of 8:00 am and 2:00 pm, and will be enforced under a partnership between security personnel and residents to ensure that school-aged children are at home or a designated learning centre during school hours.

He said the initiative was born out of a desire for children to maximise whatever learning opportunities there are, amid concerns that while parents are working they may not be supervised.

“If they are at home or at learning centres they would be under supervision, so we wouldn't expect to see them loitering on the roads or engaged in any sort of activity outside of school hours, so that was the essence behind it – trying to keep them supervised and also participating in the programmes,” Curtis said.

He added that the CDC has engaged community-based organisations, urging them to make spaces available to facilitate children who may not have access to the Internet, and has asked residents to open access to their Wi-Fi so that neighbours can benefit.

In addition, parents who were laid off from their jobs or who are working from home have been asked to take in additional children and supervise them during school hours.

“If there is no Internet they will be provided with programmes through Television Jamaica, e-Homeschool Network and the other channels. We are just trying to bridge the gaps so that students are benefiting from as much as possible,” said Curtis.

He noted that monitors will be appointed in each district in the community to help with the enforcement of the curfew.

“We asked the police to help to monitor, we have asked adults to volunteer themselves as monitors.

“We are also cognisant that there are some youngsters who are of the opinion that nobody can talk to them — these monitors will reach out to their parents to get their support for the kids to go back home,” said Curtis.

Asked about the description of the initiative as a curfew, Curtis said: “The truth is...we were thinking of something that presses home to parents that this is serious and that we are expecting 100 per cent participation.”

He opined that the children will be safe if they access online classes in the home spaces of other community members.

“In a spirit of community we are trying to strengthen the unity...so maybe it is we should be concerned about safety, but our greater concern is that the kids benefit.

“We have had one response so far. Somebody volunteered to say I will take in two persons, somebody who saw the opportunity said I would like to be considered, and we put both parents together and they worked out the schematics,” noted Curtis as he pointed out that the the CDC is still tightening down on specifics in terms of the size of the homeschool population.

“There are two primary schools within the vicinity — August Town Primary and Hope Valley — and they both started and are doing their virtual programmes and those children are fine, for the most part. We are trying to see how can we augment what is happening because there are kids who don't attend either [school]. We are still trying to canvass what the situation is in terms of accessibility in the community,” he added.

In the meantime, parents in August Town are to be assisted to improve their skills to interface with the technologies.

— Alicia Dunkley-Willis


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