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Students from 24 corporate area high schools yesterday (April 23) participated in a special youth forum, aimed at increasing awareness of their rights and responsibilities as Jamaican citizens.
The event, held at the Mona Visitor’s Lodge at the University of the West Indies, was in keeping with a series of islandwide fora being staged by the Police Civilian Oversight Authority (PCOA) under the theme: ‘Get it right by knowing your rights in order to build a better Jamaica.’ Sessions have already been held in St. James, Westmoreland, and Clarendon.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the PCOA, Dave McIntosh, said the fora were aimed at instilling good values and a sense of citizenry in the nation’s youth, which would enable them “to go through life with a very firm framework of how you should act as a proper citizen in society.”
In knowing their rights, roles and responsibilities as good citizens, he said, they would be able to “go forward in society and resolve issues that will arise without it getting to the stage that we are going to have tragedy and conflict.”
Public Education and Special Projects Manager in the Office of the Children’s Advocate, Georgia Garvey, praised the PCOA for their proactive approach “in their attempt to promote good citizenry through engaging our children”.
“This forum is a clear indication that, as a society, we are moving away from the notion that children are to be seen and not heard and embracing the reality that children have a right to be informed, to express themselves, and to have their own views taken into consideration,” she stated.
Miss Garvey noted that child participation was one of the guiding principles of the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child and was also a key aspect of the work of the Office of the Children’s Advocate.
“We are mandated by the Child Care and Protection Act, which was passed in 2004, to promote and protect children’s rights in Jamaica, and this includes the child’s right to participation. Participatory rights extend to the child’s right to be informed and to express themselves and to be heard,” she noted.
She pointed out however, that while children have the right to express their views, they have the responsibility to do so in a respectful and responsible manner. “It is very disheartening, for example, to watch the television and to see students blocking school gates and preventing persons from coming into the school because they have a disagreement with the school administration.
“Frankly, this sort of behaviour reflects poorly on our students, on our schools, and on society at large and whether or not we believe it, it also exposes our children to significant moral and physical danger,” she stated, noting that children need to be taught alternative ways to solve disagreements, while exercising their right to be heard.
Miss Garvey also urged parents to listen to their children more.
As part of the forum’s activities, students got the opportunity to learn from and interact with several youth facilitators from the Dispute Resolution Foundation on how to resolve differences and situations that may arise at school.
The PCOA has oversight for the implementation of the policies of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and its auxiliaries. It monitors the performance of the force to ensure that internationally acceptable standards of policing are maintained, reports on such matters, and conducts inspection of the force and its auxiliaries, among other duties.

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