A School Community Remembers the Violent Death of a Peer


In the midst of being taught conflict resolution and perhaps being brought to feel there might be a chance for peace and a time to dream, harsh reality intruded and disturbed the lives of students of the Charlie Smith Comprehensive High School in Kingston on January 28, when their classmate and friend 16-year-old, Rohan Thompson was killed by gunmen in the Compound area of Olympic Gardens.
A month later, on a day Jamaica recognizes as “Peace Day”, Sireka Swaby a 10th grade Charlie Smith High student still has unanswered questions.
In a voice husky with unshed tears she challenged the group of about 100 persons gathered at the PALS Jamaica Peace Day celebrations held at King’s House in Kingston, on Tuesday (March 2) to identify with the pain her school community was still experiencing.
“I really do have to wonder if any of you have any idea how all Charlie Smith students felt when we first heard that Rohan died?” Sireka asked, as the tears she had been fighting to keep at bay started streaming down her face. Her words pierced the silence as she declared: “Rohan Thompson’s violent death on January 28, 2004 hurt all students and teachers at the Charlie Smith High School.”
“When I heard that my classmate died, I couldn’t believe until I heard it from so many other students. I was shocked, hurt and mad, words cannot express the hurt the anger and the pain,” she stated.
Then even more painful were her next words, “I was mad at the gunman and God especially because he let Rohan die so painfully. I was mad at the gunman because they walked up to him and shot him just like that.”
Sireka raised the question asked by many persons who have been hurt by their fellow citizens that has still not been answered. “I don’t understand why other students and I have to live in a violent society. I wish somebody could answer that question for me.”
Almost plaintively she queried, “We didn’t do anything, why do we have to be caught in the middle of their war? We don’t deserve to be in the middle of it, because of Rohan’s death I no longer feel safe standing at my gate or anywhere else for that matter,” she stated firmly.
She added, ” I am not sure how I can change the world but I’ll try.. can you do the same?” she challenged the audience.
Students of the Charlie Smith and Trench Town High School have been responding positively to the PALS programme. Several have reported being better able to control their anger and express their feelings to their antagonists in a non-violent way. A student peer mediation club, a joint partnership between the Trench Town High and Charlie Smith High students is now active with students meeting on a weekly basis. Adult mediators mentor school mediators.

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