Children’s Advocate Lauds Work of VPA


Children’s Advocate, Mary Clarke has lauded members of the Violence Prevention Alliance (VPA) for the effort to foster peace and prosperity through their Peace Month campaign, noting that violence and abuse represented the greatest challenges facing children in Jamaica. Speaking with JIS News, Mrs. Clarke said data indicate that children are victims, perpetrators, and witnesses of abuse and violence, which negatively impact on their rights of survival, development, protection and participation.
“Peace implies absence of violence, abuse, and good interpersonal relations. Without peace there is hurt, injury, fear, anger, blame, desire for revenge, unforgiveness, and poor interpersonal relations,” she pointed out.
The Children’s Advocate noted that unfortunately, the home, community and school, where children spend most of their time, can be places of turmoil. “Children are also exposed to violence through popular culture, including the media, and this exposure to violence early in life is linked to aggression in adulthood,” Mrs. Clarke said.
Commenting on the rise in the number of incidents of crime and violence among school-aged students, the Children’s Advocate said that parents need to be more vigilant and ensure that their children are not taking weapons to school.
“If we are going to have peace for our children, there has to be more vigilance of what they are taking to school, in pockets and bags and on their person. The parents, guardians, and caregivers must bear the responsibility for this task,” Mrs. Clarke asserted.
According to the Children’s Advocate, statistics from the Safe Schools Programme, which has School Resource Officers (SROs) in 115 schools, showed that some 2,317 interventions took place between September 2006 and May 2007. A breakdown of this, she pointed out, indicates that four guns and 128 other offensive weapons were seized. Reports to the SROs, she stated, would only be a fraction of the incidents in all the schools across Jamaica.
Additionally, she maintained that in order for the nation’s children to live a peaceful and prosperous life, parents and guardians must set good examples for them to follow. “They should be positive role models for their children and should be able to teach them how to amicably settle disputes and to be caring and forgiving,” she pointed out.
Encouraging all Jamaicans to take care of the nation’s children, she stressed that, “community support is also integral to the pursuit of peace and neighbours should watch out for the children in the community and report where there is cause to suspect that children are carrying weapons or involved in violence and abuse.”
Citing the Fletchers Land community in Kingston, Mrs. Clarke said that the level of community support that exists there is a model to be studied and emulated.
“There, community members have formed a child protection group to get children off the streets at nights, to encourage and provide support for them to do their home work as well as to go to bed early, so that they will be able to attend school punctually,” she informed. She also added that the community provides organized activities for children after school, which is a very vulnerable period accounting for many incidents of violence and abuse.
The Children’s Advocate said that as a country, “we have to join forces to put a halt to this scourge in our land, regardless of age, status, political or religious affiliations.”
“We also need to recognize and support some of the measures already taken, such as the creation of the Safe Schools Programme, the on-going strengthening of the Centres for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse and the establishment of a Children’s Registry,” she said.
Peace Month is being observed from February 6 to March 4 under the theme: ‘Peace for Prosperity’. The activities are being spearheaded by the VPA, the public outreach arm of the Institute of Criminal Justice and Security of the University of the West Indies.

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