A better Jamaica
PRIME Minister Andrew Holness took a message of hope to Manchester High School students on Friday, telling them they will inherit a Jamaica with a buoyant economy that will give them no reason to go overseas for a better life.
At the same, he pointed to the problem of violence plaguing the country and said his Government, while focused on growing the economy, is making efforts to prevent violence and create peace in the society.
“You are the first generation of Jamaicans that, in the last 50 years, will be living in an economy that is growing; that means that the probability of you graduating from high school and getting a job in Jamaica is greater than 90 per cent,” Holness told the students.
“That’s a different Jamaica that you will inherit than the Jamaica that existed over 50 years ago. It means that you have to prepare for that Jamaica, but it is also a Jamaica where, when you inherit it, you will have to deal with violence.
“So two things are happening in our country — our economy is doing well, and you will get jobs, you will be able to fulfil all your dreams and aspirations. You will have income, you will be able to buy your car, buy your house, further your education, invest in your business. You don’t have to seek to migrate to live good but the quality of life that you will inherit and [that] you will be able to live is going to be affected by the level of violence in the society. Even in our schools we’re seeing that level of violence affecting you from an early age,” Holness said.
“We need to take a different approach, as a people, to solving our conflicts. We can’t use violence,” he said.
Pointing to the fatal shooting of 14-year-old Rasheem Wilson in the Corporate Area by the police on Wednesday, Holness posited that too many of Jamaica’s young men are either victims or perpetrators of violence.
“Just a few days ago I read a very sad report of a 14-year-old. He was shot and killed by the police. When I saw it I immediately reached out to get an understanding of what exactly happened. How could a 14-year-old be killed in a shoot-out by the police, and I was very sad about it. I can’t comment on the circumstances but I will say this to you, especially the 14-year-old boys who are here, in Jamaica more than 90 per cent of crimes committed, particularly serious crimes — murders and shootings — are by males,” Holness said.
“A significant percentage, I don’t have the exact figure, but I would venture to say more than 50 per cent of the shootings and murders are by males under 24. The other side of the equation is also that young males are predominantly the victims of crimes,” he said.
Suggesting that schools and households can play a greater role in guiding youngsters, the prime minister said that conflict resolution needs to be considered as part of the education curriculum.
“Governments usually try not to get too involved in regulating households, even in how they discipline children, but the social problems that we have, have become so challenging [that] they are now at crisis proportion — [so much so] that the Government has to be direct and instrumental in dealing with this problem of violence in a frontal way. We are going to have to incorporate the schools now to deliberately teach in the curriculum how to manage conflict. It is going to have to be a curriculum subject,” he said and pointed to a programme that was implemented during his tenure as education minister.
“When I was minister of education we established something called the National Parenting Commission, and that is precisely because we understood that there has to be a solid link between the home and the school. What is being taught in the schools must also be reinforced in the home,” he said.
“We will be dealing with the schools directly about treating with conflict and about dealing with violence and building peace. Through the National Parenting Support Commission we will also be carrying this message to parents to see a transformation of our society,” he said.
“We are building the economy, you will inherit a good economy, but now we have to build our people. We have to deal with our social and emotional intelligence. We want you to be peaceful people,” added Holness.
“As I look at you here I am very reassured about the future of Jamaica. You are going to be the ones that are going to ensure the continued growth of the Jamaican economy. I want you to have a positive outlook, I want you to believe that everything you dream of can be achieved right here in Jamaica. Today I want you to look with optimism and a positive stance towards your future,” the prime minister told the students.