Recently, the Jamaican minister, Portia Simpson Miller, addressed the issues of child abuse and neglectful parents.
She added that the state was going to do all it can within its power to hold negligent parents accountable. No one can argue with her on this point, as all well thinking Jamaicans will concur that we must do more to eradicate child abuse as a scourge affecting the society.
However, one issue which was not mentioned by the Prime Minister and which was probably an oversight is the State’s neglect of its children.
There are many places of safety or children’s homes which are under-funded. In fact too many of these institutions lack the required financial resources to impact the lives of their wards in a meaningful way. This is also a form of abuse.
The continued shortfall in budgetary support from the state lends itself to child abuse as in many instances these children are not adequately supervised due to the lack of personnel. As a result their development and full potential are hijacked by the state’s unwillingness to adequately allocate the resources necessary.
We also need to increase funding to all the agencies of the state which deal with children’s rights such as the Child Development Agency in order to scaffold the rights and interests of our children.
A second form of state neglect comes in the form of Jamaica’s education system. There are different categories of schools as perceived by the general public. There are schools of first choice and then there are schools of last resort. These schools of last resorts are under-funded and spread across the inner city of Jamaica. In fact for the most part these schools are left on their own. The students who attend such schools are far worse off than their counterparts not because they are not qualified teachers there but mainly because of the politics involved in Jamaica’s education system. This negative political cultural practice is carried out by both major political parties’ and rewards mediocrity and political allegiance to the detriment of national and sustainable development.
Who will hold the government accountable for its neglect of the nation’s children? The magnitude of Jamaica’s child abuse cases are recorded in the report from the Office of the Children’s Registry. According to the Office of the Children’s Registry (OCR) between January to September of 2013 there were 8,527 reports of child abuse which is most alarming. Until we become serious about addressing the issues of child abuse and parental neglect we will continue to move from crisis to crisis. The time has come for us to become proactive.
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