KINGSTON –– A piercing cry of pain reverberated in the stillness of Monday morning as thousands of Jamaicans, decked in black, stood with solemn, defiant faces, silently declaring enough is enough.
The scene on the outside of Jamaica College in the southeastern parish of St Andrew mirrored that of soldiers ready to go to war; only it was mothers, fathers, parents, teachers, students, politicians, activists and concerned citizens ready to wage a battle against crime against children.
“For too long we have sat idly by and allowed criminals to hold us hostage and we need to draw a line in the sand and say, as Jamaicans, we are no longer going to be passive, we are no longer going to be uncaring, we are no longer going to see our children and our other friends and family members be brutally killed and maimed without us taking any action,” declared Education Minister Senator Ruel Reid as he addressed the grieving crowd.
Last Wednesday’s tragic murder of 14-year-old Nicholas Francis, a third form student at Jamaica College, was the tipping point for Jamaicans traumatized by the senseless killing of innocent children. The teen was brutally stabbed to death by a thief after he refused to hand over his watch and other valuables during a robbery on a public bus.
“The real issue is that Nicholas Francis must not die in vain. His death is a galvanizing point to make sure that no other child in school, in this country, should die from this kind of scourge,” President of the Jamaica College Parent Teacher Association Errol Homes told the Jamaica Gleaner.
He added that the silent march was to demonstrate that the children of Jamaica are not alone.
“Nicholas must not die in vain,” Holmes said repeatedly. “His death is representative of every other child who has lost their lives to violence in our country.”
Still the words offered little comfort to Francis’ grief stricken mother, Petrona Hamilton who wept uncontrollably, clutching a photo of her son during the hour-long event.
Her obvious pain revealed that violence against children has been a vexing problem for Jamaican authorities. And Holmes confirmed that the scourge was far too frequent, as he related several recent incidents of violence against children on public transportation.
“It is too much. It is too long!” he said passionately.
Kingston College head boy Andre Clarke told the gathering that everyone should join in solidarity and show that the attacks on children must stop.
“The children of Jamaica have a cry and we will be heard. This is not a cry just for the politicians, the police force, or even just the church to stand up. For we are children and we have a voice.”
The JC PTA is planning to lobby the Andrew Holness administration to reconsider a student transportation system.