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"Skeletons in our closet: the gruesome realities for children"
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"Skeletons in our closet: the gruesome realities for children"

Lex GoffeJamaica’s children do not have the luxury of dressing up in costume, trick or treating, watching horror films and being scared one day out of the year. They face scary realities daily, writes Alexis Goffe, 26.

With Halloween (31 October) and Universal Children’s Day (November 20) having just passed, I encourage all Jamaicans to reflect on what should truly scare both us and our children.

Forget the witches, the ghosts, the gremlins and the vampires. Instead, shudder at the fact that last year only 67 per cent of our primary and all-age students achieved mastery on the Grade Four Literacy Test.

Feel uneasy when reading that the national mean for the 2011 GSAT was 61.9 per cent for Mathematics and 57.8 per cent for Language Arts. This does not take into consideration the 6,200 students who were eligible to sit the exam but were prevented from doing so because they were the lowest performing students, having failed the Grade Four Literacy Test – as many as four times for some.

Brace yourself, as you learn that the Ministry of Education reported that only 50 per cent (Math) and 59 per cent (English) of the total number of students in the Grade 11 cohort (41,248) took the 2010 Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) exams, with pass rates of 45.7 per cent (Math) and 70.8 per cent (English). What would the pass rates have been if all students had taken the exams?

Tremble when you read that while the national unemployment rate hovers around 12 per cent, youth unemployment (15 – 24 years) hovers around 27 per cent and accounts for 68 per cent of the national unemployment rate.

Feel your heart racing as you learn that one in four of Jamaica’s poor is a child.

Sexual assault is one of the most common reasons for children to be taken to hospitals. Children under 10 years old account for 17 per cent of all sexual assault cases and between the ages of 10 and 19 years old they account for 57 per cent. Between 2001 and 2010, more than 1,500 Jamaican children and teens were murdered.

These gruesome realities are not for the faint of heart. Jamaica’s children do not have the luxury of dressing up in costume, trick or treating, watching horror films and being scared one day out of the year. Jamaican children face scary realities daily.

What are we – Jamaica’s adults – prepared to do to change this terrifying reality?

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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