Teacher recounts death threat from six-year-old in inner-city
Children also speak of negative feelings whenever shots are fired

MONTEGO BAY, St James — Bemoaning the negative impact that violence is having on the nation’s children, a basic school teacher in an inner-city community in western Jamaica recounts that she once received a death threat from a disobedient six-year-old student whom she attempted to discipline.

The teacher, who lives in the gritty community nestled in the Area One Police Division, and who spoke to the Jamaica Observer on terms of anonymity, reflected that the child’s father was a reputed gunman in the community.

The early childhood educator said that after kicking and squeezing his classmates, the recalcitrant boy was ordered to stand.

But much to her bewilderment, the boy retorted by making an expletive-laced threat to the teacher, in the presence of his classmates.

“One of the students threatened me. Some time ago there one particular student whose father was a gunman. He was very disobedient. This six-year-old was kicking up the childen, squeezing their necks. I called to him twice, he did not stop. The third time I told him to stand up for a period of time. He burst out with expletives and threatened that he was going to make his father shoot me. I said Jesus loves you. I am going to pray for you,” the still visibly shaken educator revealed.

“It (violence) is affecting the school ... some of the children who live in the community are acutely affected by it. I am living in the heart of it.”

On the way to school the following morning, and passing by the child’s home, she was approached by the child’s father who indicated that he didn’t want the child to follow in his footpath.

“The following morning as I was passing his father’s house he said teacher I don’t want him to come like me. I want him to behave himself and be nice,” the teacher reflected.

The teacher revealed that during the peak of a gang-related feud in the community where the school is situated, the students would frequently dramatise scenes of violence they witnessed in their communities such as pretending to be shooting by pointing fingers at each other, as well as imitate police handcuffing community members.

The police had to be called in at one stage to speak with the children, the educator said.

“They play it out in school. They use their fingers, pose as if they are shooting, point it at each other, or hold it at each other’s neck. And some go behind other students and cross their hands behind them as if they are handcuffing them,” the concerned teacher said.

One six-year-old girl, who had a close family member gunned down in the community, told the Sunday Observer that each time she hears gunshots she becomes so afraid that she has to be cuddled by her mother.

“I am scared, I am scared. I hear it (gunshots) a lot of times,” the six-year-old girl said, staring blankly.

Widening her eyes, she added: “They killed somebody for me. They shot him and a lot of people. When I hear gunshots I hug my mommy. My mommy has to take me up. It happens a lot of times.”

She recounted that one morning after she was awakened by gunshots, when she peeked outside she saw several soldiers.

“A house was burning down and when we wake up like some soldiers were there,” she remembered.

Asked if she felt safe when she saw the soldiers she responded impatiently, “no, because I am scared”.

A six-year-old male student also noted that he is also afraid whenever there is shooting in his community.

“I am scared when I hear the gunshots. My daddy run from it and put me somewhere,” he said.

A teacher from the same community recounted that when his daughter was about 16, she used to defecate and urinate uncontrollably whenever she heard gunshots.

“She would mess up herself when she heard gunshots echoing in the community,” the teacher confirmed.

Speaking at the recent Child Abuse Guidelines Training seminar for the Jamaica Constabulary Force and justices of the peace, organised and facilitated by the Office of the Children’s Advocate at the Royalton Luxury Resort in Trelawny, head of the Area One Police Division, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Clifford Chambers, bemoand the rampant atrocities meted out to the nation’s children.

“Even in my neck of the woods in Area One in here, I’ve seen it. A five-year-old been molested, I’ve seen a nine-year-old being murdered in the back of a car. Last week a three-year-old was murdered,” ACP Chambers bemoaned.

“And it’s unfortunate that these are the realities that we have to face as adults because of the kind of support that we would want to have and to give our children, which is not being provided.”

Horace Hinds

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