Gunshot drills at school

Frequent firefights among criminals force measure at Denham Town Primary

BY KIMMO MATTHEWS Observer staff reporter

Thursday, June 18, 2015

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STUDENTS attending Denham Town Primary School in west Kingston are being put through 'gunshot drills' that train them how to react during gun battles between thugs — a common occurrence in the volatile community.

Denham Town Primary School Principal Eugenne Brown told the Jamaica Observer that students at her school and others in the area are suffering because of the never-ending gang war that has claimed the lives of dozens of people and caused injury to more than 50 children in recent years.

Over the past week alone, two people have been killed and more than 10 others injured by gangsters locked in a deadly fight for turf.

"At some schools, teachers take students through fire drills, but at our institution we are forced to conduct things like gunshot drills," Brown told the Observer on Wednesday amidst sporadic bouts of gunfire in close proximity to the school.

Several people could be seen scurrying to safety -- knowing full well that the gangsters were at it again.

Inside the schoolyard, at the sound of the deafening gunfire, Brown's students -- ages six to 12 years -- reacted almost instinctively, stopping all their activities and running for cover.

Teachers explained that the drills are necessary, given the frequency of violent breakouts in the community, with criminals using the streets close to where the children play as battlefields.

While there was no report of death or injury Wednesday, the teachers were well aware of the scene that played out Monday outside the neighbouring St Anne's Primary School where a man died after being chased and shot multiple times by men travelling in a motor car.

Police said, in that incident, the man, Oniel Carnegie, was walking along the road when the gunmen alighted from a car and opened fire at him.

In a desperate bid to escape, he ran into a nearby shop where he was cornered and shot dead. A woman who was in the area was also shot and injured.

The incident brought activities at St Anne's Primary to a halt as educators had to instantly put aside their sticks of chalk and dusters to protect the young students who all huddled in corners.

On Wednesday, the Denham Town Primary principal said the shootings have left the students traumatised.

"Many times students go home with these things on their minds, many of them can't sleep at nights, and you can see evidence of this when they come to school," said the principal.

Meanwhile, teachers said there are times when the children play at school "as if there is no tomorrow". This, they said, happens because the children are prisoners in their homes as a result of violence.

"This is because a lot of times when they go home they will not have this. They have to stay indoors because of the crime," said a teacher who requested anonymity.

Meanwhile, Principal Brown told the Observer that special attention is given to students who turn up at school without money for lunch.

"Every effort is made to ensure that these students are provided for on the school grounds, as failure to do so may result in a situation where they venture on the outside and fall victim to another violent attack," said Brown.

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