Can't bury our heads in the sand while children suffer

Can't bury our heads in the sand while children suffer

Natalie
Campbell-
Rodriques

Thursday, November 26, 2020

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Our children are at risk in Jamaica. If one speaks with the Child Protection and Family Services Agency it is obvious that they are concerned. In the last few weeks the country has seen two child suicides, a five-year-old boy being killed and found close to his home, two children cold-bloodedly murdered in Spanish Town, and a boy mauled by a dog.

Sadly, these are the more popular cases. What is happening in our homes and communities?

Whatever is taking place needs to be brought to a halt. Some of us are not only quiet, but are playing ostrich with the situation. Now, let us be frank and honest and accept that tending to the problem is our responsibility as citizens of the country vs the belief that the Government is not doing enough. It is us, the neighbours, parents, friends, and family members who must join the movement to protect our children.

There are instances, and I would venture to say in many instances in which there is at least one person who is seeing the abuse of children and saying nothing. There are people who know who has killed these children, or who may have hurt them, and know full well they will need help to recover, but why are we not speaking up? Why “see and blind” and “hear and deaf”'?

If the raw numbers are examined it will seem as though since the 'school-from-home' era less children are being abused. Data shows that April saw an approximately 50 per cent fall in the number of reported cases of abuse from that of January, February or March of this year. The instinct is to jump for joy and assume that this means that, with more parents/guardians staying home, less children are being abused. This is not necessarily the case.

The real fear is that many children have lost their avenue for reporting what is happening to them. Details are no longer being spontaneously shared while children play together or interact with their teachers. Guidance counsellors are not able to spot behaviour changes that are red flags. Our teenagers do not have as much individual access to their favourite teachers or to the school nurse.

The problem is real, and it is difficult if not impossible to measure during this time. But we are in the homes and communities with these vulnerable members of our society. What are we doing to help to fill the gap left by the absence of physical schooling? Who is willing to speak up and report if they know of an abuse taking place? If a society and its people can be judged based on how it takes care of its young, its old and its vulnerable, what judgement would we get here in Jamaica?

Our state agencies and personnel cannot do it on their own, we must also play our part. It is not enough to be sad when we hear of the cases on the news. It is not enough to ensure we protect our own children, nieces, and nephews. Let us instead call the hotline manned by the National Children's Registry at 888-PROTECT if we know of cases of abuse against our children and youth. Let us go to the police and let us not continue to bury our heads in the sand while our children suffer.

Natalie Campbell-Rodriques is a senator and development consultant with a focus on political inclusion, governance, gender, and Diaspora affairs. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or ncampbellrodriq@gmail.com.


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