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When September morning comes...


Friday, August 31, 2018

September morning is upon us… The back to school bell will ring in a matter of days. The lazy days of summer are no more. Many of our students have all the necessary things in place to start the new school year. New uniforms are ready, or last year's uniform given a freshen-up and revamping to take on the challenge ahead.

I'm sure you've noticed one thing about Jamaican people — they send their children to school clean and tidy. No matter the circumstances, they make sure the shoes are shined, the uniforms pressed to perfection as they send them out for the school day. Whether they comply with the newly established dress code regulations is a question for another time. For many students and some parents, the first days of school is a time of excitement and expectation.

Some students are entering a new school or moving along to another grade, and anticipation is high as they gear up to hit the road on their education journey. Sadly, for the family of 14-year-old Yetanya Francis, they are preparing for a different journey — one of grief and despair.

The country has been shocked by the incident of the Kingston Technical High School student who went missing after going to buy food last week Thursday night. The reports in the news said that her mother and residents began searching for the young girl when she did not return home. The following morning they found her remains in an open lot not far from her home. It is believed that she was raped before she was killed and her body dumped in an open lot and set on fire.

It is said that some people heard shouts and cries for help, but in the dark hours of the night they were not able to see where the calls were coming from. There has been some condemnation that the residents did not do more to investigate the sounds. In discussing the incident with a friend who once lived in a neighbouring community, my friend said, “People vex bout it… It mek people feel so sad.”

The awful circumstances of this painful story have touched the hearts of many Jamaicans. It is awful to imagine that this can happen to any parent, and yet the wanton killing of the young has become commonplace in Jamaica today. The reports of Yetanya's mother are haunting and painful, as she smelled the acrid scent of the fire that reduced her daughter's body to ash and wondered what was being burnt.

Mr Lionel Francis, father of the young girl, has expressed his anger that she should have been made to suffer. To think that she was sent to buy food to help her family, only to have vicious criminals take her life. Her father is demanding that the perpetrator(s) should be made to pay for their actions. While we offer condolences and support to the family and friends of Yetanya, we can only hope that we will find our way back to a place where we protect our young, not destroy them.

HOPE THROUGH MUSIC: Recently, 50 boys from Manning Child Care Facility in Southfield, St Elizabeth, took part in a music festival geared toward enhancing their self-confidence through music. The facility has a marching band, a concert band and a recording studio where the boys, aged between eight and 19 years, can engage in music as therapy.

Regardless of their circumstances, it is important to give children, such as those in places of safety and State care, an opportunity to strive for better. It is important that we find different ways to engage our youth, our young boys especially. Children learn and respond in different ways. Very often elders believe that that the book and pencil are the only effective ways to engage in education.

There are many challenges to face. We live in a new world and there is no reason that we shouldn't look for opportunities to bring a new generation into the excitement of learning new things. Professor Rex Nettleford would often say it is good to be educated, but it is important to also be educable. The willingness to learn should always be encouraged in the young and old alike. When September morning comes around, let us all take the chance to start fresh and open our minds to learning something new.