Stu­dents need pro­tec­tion from at­tacks, west­ern prin­ci­pals say

Jamaica Gleaner - - GROWTH & JOBS - Christo­pher Thomas Gleaner Writer

Sixth form stu­dents at Corn­wall Col­lege in 2013.

FOL­LOW­ING THE stab­bing death of Ja­maica Col­lege stu­dent Ni­cholas Fran­cis dur­ing a rob­bery on a bus in Oc­to­ber and sub­se­quent re­ports of sim­i­lar at­tacks on other stu­dents, some prin­ci­pals in west­ern Ja­maica have ac­knowl­edged the need for stricter safety mea­sures for their stu­dents.

Clyde Evans, prin­ci­pal of Peters­field High School in West­more­land, and Donna-Marie Red­way, prin­ci­pal of the Mon­tego Bay High School for Girls in St James, told West­ern Fo­cus that their re­spec­tive in­sti­tu­tions do all they can to warn their stu­dents against any prac­tices that could make them tar­gets for rob­bers while go­ing to and from school.

“We work closely with the po­lice, and we are safe so far in that none of our stu­dents have been sub­jected to any form of at­tack,” said Evans. “But we as a school and as a so­ci­ety can only con­tinue to ap­peal to our good-think­ing citizens to help us to pro­tect our chil­dren where their move­ments and safety are con­cerned.”

Red­way said: “The most we can do is to sen­si­tise our girls and re­mind them, and im­plore them, to be a lit­tle more con­scious, to not walk with the cell­phones on the road. The ap­peal has to be made to the po­lice to be more vig­i­lant in their pa­trols be­cause we can­not con­trol the girls when they go out on the street.”

There was pub­lic out­cry fol­low­ing the death of Ni­cholas Fran­cis, a 14-year-old third-form stu­dent at Ja­maica Col­lege who was at­tacked on Oc­to­ber 26 af­ter he boarded a Coaster bus in the vicin­ity of Blue Castle Drive on Old Hope Road in St An­drew. His as­sailant stabbed him in the ch­est and hand and then threw him from the bus af­ter Ni­cholas re­sisted the rob­ber’s de­mand to hand over his cell phone.

A spate of at­tacks on stu­dents, es­pe­cially out­side the bounds of their schools, is not new. Prior to the at­tack on Fran­cis, stu­dents of the Den­bigh High School in Claren­don were robbed in Septem­ber, and in Novem­ber 2014, it was re­ported that stu­dents from St Ge­orge’s Col­lege, Kingston Col­lege, and Holy Trin­ity High School had been tar­geted by thieves.

Asked about her own stu­dents’ level of safety, Red­way ad­mit­ted that there had been four in­stances in Septem­ber alone, where rob­bers had preyed on Mon­tego Bay High stu­dents.

“There have been four cases in Septem­ber since the start of this school year. We had a case where the man in­sisted that the girl should go into her bag, and she said, ‘I don’t have a phone,’ and he said, ‘Give me your phone,’ and he had a knife, and she had the same type of phone the lit­tle boy (Ni­cholas Fran­cis) had, and he did not want it,” Red­way re­counted. “There was an­other sit­u­a­tion where a girl was us­ing her phone, and the man walked up to her with a knife, and she handed it over.”


Red­way con­tin­ued: “It is a depraved so­ci­ety be­cause why would you want to steal a child’s phone? But the po­lice are stretched, and they tell us that with all the crime in the area, they have big­ger fish to fry ... but some­thing needs to hap­pen.”

Mean­while, Evans said that re­source con­straints have pre­vented his in­sti­tu­tion from tak­ing on greater mea­sures to en­sure stu­dent safety such as a school-bus sys­tem.

“To be able to put some­thing in place, that would be a chal­lenge as it re­lates to the va­ri­ety of com­mu­ni­ties that stu­dents come from and our lim­ited re­sources. We would have loved to be able to have a bus that would be able to go as close to cer­tain com­mu­ni­ties as pos­si­ble, but un­for­tu­nately, we do not have that fa­cil­ity,” said Evans.

“We talk to our stu­dents, we en­cour­age them, we tell them, ‘Do not travel with taxis you do not know Travel in groups, Be aware of your sit­u­a­tion and sur­round­ings. Do not stand in lonely ar­eas while wait­ing for a drive.’ We can only con­tinue to pray and hope for the best,” Evans added.

In the mean­time, Su­per­in­ten­dent of the Hanover po­lice Arthel Colly warned that stu­dents in that parish should avoid lonely ar­eas, to pre­vent them­selves from be­com­ing tar­gets for crim­i­nals.

“I would warn stu­dents against go­ing over by the beach area at Lucea, at the area near Wat­son Taylor Park near Rusea’s High School, as it is lonely in the evening hours,” said Colly. “I would also warn about the Old Steamer Beach. As it re­lates to the stu­dents go­ing to Hopewell High, I would ad­vise they avoid that beach af­ter evening hours.”

NOVEM­BER 29, 2016

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