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JIS News

Children’s Advocate, Mary Clarke, is encouraging children and responsible adults to play their part in reporting incidents of child abuse.
Mrs. Clarke, who was paying her first visit to an educational institution since her appointment in January, told students at the Morant Bay Primary School in St.Thomas today (March 7), that the 2004 Child Care and Protection Act formed a part of the government’s efforts to safeguard and promote the rights of children and to discourage abuse.
Noting that the law carried harsh penalties for persons who mistreat children, Mrs. Clarke urged students to act responsibly by speaking out when they were being abused.
The Advocate reminded the students of their right to provision, protection and participation as well as their right to life, and informed that steps were currently being taken to establish a Registry of Child Abuse as mandated by the Act.
“It is mandatory that cases of abuse and suspected abuse be reported,” she stressed, adding that her office would work closely with the entity when it is fully established.
Mrs. Clarke told JIS News that she had chosen to visit the school based on the events which unfolded in the parish recently, with the killing of nine-year old Jessie Ogilvie, who was a student of the school, and relatives Sean Chin, Lloyd McCool and Jhaid McCool, Farika Martin-McCool, and Terry-Ann Mohammed, on February 26 in St Thomas.
“I chose to come to Morant Bay Primary because of what happened in this parish recently. I thought it was necessary to come to help children to realize that there are persons out there who care for them and who want them to be safe,” she said.
In addition, Mrs. Clarke said she wanted to inform the children about the Act and the measures contained in it for their safety as well as the penalties for persons who abused or violated their rights.
Meanwhile, Principal of the Morant Bay Primary School, Esther McGowan, told JIS News that the Peace Day (March 7) activities coincided with a week-long series of talks which were arranged to focus on peace in the home, school and in relationships.
“It has made a great difference, thinking of what had happened a week ago. I think children are now more serious about living harmoniously and peacefully,” she said.
Mrs. McGowan said following the incident, students and teachers were traumatized but a combination of help from other support services as well as other guidance counsellors from other institutions, has helped to soothe the situation.
In addition, she said help has been obtained from members of the Victim Support Unit and the Child Evangelism Association, which have taken part in the intervention process.
“So I think we are coping well. The children are coping well, especially the class which Jessie was in,” she informed. Students were also screened for depression, and follow-up activities are to be undertaken.
Mrs. McGowan appealed to the school community to maintain peace and to see life as being important.
“I am begging Jamaicans to live by that word. Peace in our homes, in our communities, in our schools. Save the children,” she implored.