JIS News

The fourth staging of an islandwide series of consultative workshops hosted by the Office of the Children’s Advocate in Spanish Town on March 5 is being hailed as “very successful” by Children’s Advocate Mary Clarke.
Mrs. Clarke says that in fact, several issues that were unearthed during the workshop will be discussed at a meeting to be held with the police and representatives of the Ministry of Health.
“We found out so much that is happening. We heard the voices of the children and the teachers. From the consultations I’ve found so many issues I need to sit and discuss with the police,” she said.
She stated that issues to be discussed were varied and stemmed primarily from the communities. “Problems that children have (include) the use of ganja and how it is impacting children directly or indirectly (and) we have problems with loud noise in some communities. Another thing we picked up were certain hot spots for child abuse that we need to bring to their attention and we hope they will have their police in these areas to investigate and see what can be done,” she said.
Mrs. Clarke noted that the police were in an excellent position to address these situations. “They have community policing, community meetings with persons and of course they enforce the law. They have a much wider spread than we have and they can reach persons at the community level. We believe in public education, sensitization and enforcement where this becomes necessary,” she stressed.
The series of consultations are an attempt by the Office of the Children’s Advocate to educate persons about the Office, its role and functions.
It also aims to educate persons about the Child Care and Protection Act as it relates to children in school, teachers and guidance counsellors, and to hear the concerns of the children themselves.
This interaction she pointed out would advise the review of policies to the relevant authorities including Parliament, the Ministry of Health and the various agencies that oversee the care and protection of children.
Addressing teachers on the matter of corporal punishment Mrs. Clarke called on them to adopt alternate measures in disciplining children. “Because when they come to the office with their bruises and cuts we have to respond and apply the legal process. We really don’t want it to come to that. We are here to work with them and not against them in the best interest of children,” she added.
Workshops have so far been held in Ocho Rios, Montego Bay, Mandeville, and St. Catherine. The final workshop will be held in Kingston next week.

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