Social intervention at HWT bus park
Tanesha Mundale – Jamaican Observer – Monday, November 04, 2013
TWO Government ministers and a representative of an international non-governmental organisation went to the Half-Way-Tree Transport Centre last Friday with a few messages for students: stay away from crime, focus on school work, and exercise discipline in their conduct.
“If you drop out of school, you are six times more likely to become a gang member, and if you become a gang member you are ten times more likely to end up in prison or dead, and we don’t want that for you, we want discipline and order,” National Security Minister Peter Bunting told the students. “You can still be cool and have fun, keeping calm and avoiding gangs,” Bunting added.
The visit, labelled a social intervention, was staged weeks after the Sunday Observer alerted the nation to the unruly and sometimes violent behaviour of students inside the bus park. Bunting was accompanied by Education Minister Ronald Thwaites and Dushyant Savadia from the Art of Living Foundation.
Savadia challenged the students to make a pledge to themselves to stay away from violence and to better educate themselves so that they can grow up and contribute to the country. He also called on the students to start behaving positively, love their country and the people around them. “We need change, and we need to change fast, and we need to change now,” he said. “What you choose to do right now will echo in your future. The choice of doing the right thing now is yours.”
Along with the messages, the students were treated to a flash mob, as well as a brief documentary, titled Songs of Redemption, which depicted the lives of inmates at the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre. An ex-inmate, Andrew Christian, who was featured in the documentary, also warned the children to focus on their studies and stay clear of crime and violence.
“Stay off the street and listen to your parents, because where I am coming from, it is not easy. Focus on you school work and learn as much as you can,” said Christian, who was imprisoned for three-and-a-half years for possession of illegal firearm. But while some of the students stayed and listened to the speakers, some left immediately after the flash mob ended, while many others could be seen loitering on the second floor.
When the Sunday Observer ventured down on the second floor, a police corporal was overheard reprimanding a female student for inappropriately touching a male student. “Yu a watch me, ’bout you a feel up man; you must have respect fi yu uniform or go ova back road,” the corporal told the student, who protested that she was not touching the boy inappropriately. The boy in question also denied the policeman’s claim, saying that the girl had only held onto his arm.
Education Minister Thwaites, who had observed the massive gathering of students on second floor, said it highlighted the fact that the students are in need of a place where they can go and socialise and have wholesome fun. “Young people need a place to get together,” he said. “It is obvious to me that they lack places where they can have healthy entertainment: but at the same time, it can’t go to the excess, as that can be counter-productive, so they need guidance.” He lauded the education ministry and the Art of Living Foundation for the social intervention, noting that it was very important as it brought some amount of consciousness to what has been occurring at the centre.
The Sunday Observer asked one male student what he had got from the speakers, but he responded by shaking his head, claiming that he had forgotten what was said. However, another student, a female, said: “I got the message. Focus on my education and avoid crime, but it wasn’t really for me because I wasn’t doing anything bad.”