The high number of dropouts and teenage pregnancies is concerning
A World Bank study, based on the Jamaica Survey of Living Conditions, has revealed that 49 per cent of girls are not in high school because they are pregnant.a

As an educator for over 20 years I am deeply concerned about the growing number of high school dropouts and teenage pregnancies in our schools.

We don't need official statistics to prove that since the COVID-19 pandemic there has been an uptick in the level of high school dropouts and teenage pregnancies. Just take a visit to the post-natal clinics and invariably you will see young girls with pimples on their faces, who should be in school, carrying babies on their waists.

In most cases these girls are impregnated by adult males, many of whom are old enough to be their fathers. It is full time our society seeks to ostracise these sexual predators and "infant killers". I think it is time to amend the Offences Against the Person Act and increase the penalty for sexual offence against girls between the ages of 12 and 16 years old to life imprisonment instead of the current maximum of seven years. We need to protect our children from these predators and make an example of them for abusing our children.

The increasing reports of sexual abuse of our children should concern us all, and we should move with haste to protect them from harm. Jamaica, like many other English-speaking countries, has a sex offenders' registry; however, it is not open to public access. It is my view that everyone should have access to the registry. Don't parents and all law-abiding citizens have the right to know when a sex offender moves into their community?

It is full time our laws serve to create a more equitable balance by protecting the rights of the victims rather than the rights of the offenders. The pain and suffering of the victims and their loved ones need greater focus from the law.

Let us show our youth that we really care about them. Let us end sexual violence against our children by first breaking our silence.

Andre A O Wellington is a justice of the peace and the dean of discipline at Alston High School. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or andrewellington344@yahoo.com.

BY ANDRE WELLINGTON

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