Barbados is about 60 days away from having updated legislation to address all child related issues.
Noting that he too was concerned about the rise in child-related issues in the country, Minister of Home Affairs Adriel Brathwaite has given the assurance that he would soon be finalizing a draft bill addressing such issues.
“We are probably 60 days away . . . I’ve been talking about this for two years now, I’ve said we need to draw a line in the sand and I’m currently finalizing a draft for the Justice Bill and I should be able to invite you very soon to hear me champion this report,” Brathwaite told yesterday’s annual Child Protection March in Heroes Square, Bridgetown.
Addressing a recent case at the Parkinson Memorial Secondary School, where a student damaged a teacher’s car and was sent off to the Government Industrial School, Brathwaite stressed that the main issue in that situation was being overlooked.
“What came across to me was the fact that more emphasis seems to be placed on the damage to the car and the violence etc., as opposed to the cause of the child’s behaviour. I just want to remind our society that children, they don’t wake up and become wicked. A normal child who is on suspension doesn’t go back into a school and damage a car. We need to focus more on what caused the children to behave the way they are behaving as a society and one that means well for our children and try to respond appropriately,” he said.
The Minister of Home Affairs stressed that the response to Parkinson School incident and other such cases should never be to just punish them but to “let us examine the cause of the deviant behaviour that we are seeing and try to address that so that we can save more of our children.
“The answer cannot be let us incarcerate our children or send them to the Government Industrial School. The answer has to be, let us examine the cause of the deviant behaviour and try to address that so that they don’t graduate to more serious criminal behaviour.”
Brathwaite also said he plans to formalize the relationship between his ministry and the Ministry of Education to see how best they could help the nation’s children.
“I can publicly announce today that we plan to expand that and formalize that to incorporate teachers, PTA, unions etc., so that we are better able to respond to the needs of our children, in particular [those who] are having serious difficulty,” he added.
Reverend Anne Hamilton-Cutting, co-Founder of Action For Justice, which organized the walk, said there was need for a more coordinated approach to addressing child related issues and protecting the rights of children.
“Child abuse in all forms affects all persons in a society. It requires a coordinated approach with a range of stakeholders working together to ensure that all children are protected and safeguarded in Barbados,” she said.
This year’s theme is, It takes a community to protect a child’ and that’s our aim.