Hopewell High School-#2
Date: September 17, 2013
The Second Stop on the Talk Up Yout School Tour
KINGSTON, 19 September 2013: Travelling the South Coast Route from Kingston to Hanover is a feat of no mean order, yet, The Talk Up Yout team led by Emprezz Golding, powered by UNICEF, National Bakery, Purewater, and accompanied by a representative of the Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network & Steppa made the roughly 4 hour journey to give the students of Hopewell High School their chance to TALK UP! The excitement of the students was so infectious that before long the entire team felt energized and ready to hear the issues faced by the youths in Hanover.
The panel at Hopewell High School included Emprezz, Steppa,Donmarie Latouche (NCYD-Youth Empowerment Officer, Hanover), the guidance counselor of Hopewell High School and 5 five students, representative of each year group. The audience was comprised of almost 200 students and teachers of Hopewell High.
The students of Hopewell High unleashed a deluge of issues such as the Poor Operation of Schools, Poor Transportation Conditions, High School Dropouts, Teenage Pregnancy, Homosexuality, Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Teenage Prostitution, Drugs including Marijuana, Lack of Parental Guidance, Moral Degradation, Loss of Community Parenting, Child Abuse, Premature Sexual Activity, Delinquent Fathers and Mothers, Rape, Juvenile Delinquency, Neglect and Abandonment, Suicide, Depression, Cutting and other forms of Self-Mutilation (e.g. Sewing one’s hands), Spousal Abuse, Illiteracy, Over-Exposure to Sexually Charged Material/Images and Indiscipline in Schools.
Much of the day’s discussion was centered on finding the causes and solutions of all of these issues, especially the ones the students identified as particularly prevalent. These included Child Abuse, Neglect and Abandonment and Self-Mutilation. Students were eager to share their personal experiences as well as those they had witnessed. Some students got emotional and had to be counseled by Talk Up Yout counselors separately.
One girl in particular seemed to have been holding so much trauma and pain inside of her that she broke down in tears and could not even express herself with words. Several students in the audience shared horror stories of mothers telling their children that they (the mothers) should have aborted them, telling them now that they ought to “gwaan guh dead”. Students spoke of overhearing parents abusing their children verbally and physically, and most importantly they spoke of how they felt in those situations and the feeling of not knowing who to turn to, not having anyone to confide in.
The Guidance Counselor of Hopewell High Ms. Thomas spoke of some of the issues that she, in her capacity as Guidance Counselor faces such as the reticence of parents to become involved in the life of the school and the lives of their children. Donamarie Latouche: The NCYD’s Youth Empowerment Officer agreed with her and said that parents are more likely to come to school when a student’s phone has been confiscated than for PTA meetings or any consultation at all with teachers.
Throughout the program the panelists, especially Emprezz, often left the stage to talk to the students who were sharing their experiences for the first time. Several students while speaking amongst themselves noted that, never before had anyone ever come to them and asked them how they felt, and what they were dealing with. Emprezz shared many uplifting quotations from people such as Marcus Garvey and Kofi Annan with the students and counseled them, encouraging them to believe in themselves, reminding them of the various agencies that exist solely to protect them from the kinds of situations they are facing.
A representative from the Office of the Children’s Registry gave the students the contact numbers of the various agencies that they can contact for help and UNICEF handed out help stickers to each child with similar information.
Although, the issues at Hopewell High and in Hanover are dire and need immediate response from the various authorities, there are success stories. There are phenomenal students, who, despite facing mammoth problems, have found little solutions to help combat their pain. One student, related to all present, how she uses dub poetry and music to take her to a place where she is safe, to heal herself, and she has since stopped turning to self-mutilation to keep her sanity. Several students gave performances after which Steppa performed to bring the day’s activities to a close.
Next Stop: Cumberland High School in St. Catherine. Students, get ready to Talk Up!
Written by Kristeena Monteith