I was robbed, right here on the corner of my school Kingston College about two years ago. There is a security camera on the same road as the school, and one time it caught two students being robbed. The video also captured cars just driving by. Nobody stopped to help.
Back then, it seemed like every day a student was being robbed or abused. What happened to me was a pretty traumatic experience, but I did not want to stay traumatised. I wanted to ensure that these streets are safer for students.
That is why me and other head students from high schools in Central Kingston: Kingston College (KC), Georges, Alpha, Holy Trinity, Clan Carthy, Wolmer’s Boys and Girls, St. Hughs and Kingston Technical got together to form Students Safety on the Streets Initiative (SOS).
Students join together end violence
We launched SOS in November last year because we were tired of asking for help. First of all, we took to the streets with a peace march. I cannot recall a march that has ever been done in Jamaica by students and we did it with 600 students. We also went out into the surrounding communities, engaging residents and critical partners such as the Ministry of Education, and we even got coverage on national television. All of this matters, because as young people we do not believe we have a voice, and not everyone in power believes that we should have one.
However, voicelessness cannot be our perspective. Being head boy of KC has taught me a lot about the kind of change we can make happen, and that is what drives me.
This week I had a first meeting with the Minister of National Security Horace Chang about taking immediate steps to improve security around schools. He said that he would speak to the Commissioner of Police to see what can be done in the immediate future.
KC head boy Chad Rattray was robbed on this spot. Traumatised, he didn't want to stay that way, so together with other students he formed Students Safety on the Streets Initiative (SOS), lobbying to #ENDviolence around Kingston schools.
— UNICEF Jamaica (@UNICEFJamaica) June 7, 2019
Protest march spurs action
As a longer-term solution, I will be lobbying for a new act on school safe zones, which would ensure an increased police presence. Other critical measures would include improved pedestrian crossings, and the use of closed circuit television (CCTC) cameras. Improvements to public transportation would reduce the dangers that children are exposed to while waiting at bus stops and the risk of them choosing less safe transportation options. As a safety measure, the Jamaica Urban Transport Corporation (JUTC) can also increase the frequency of buses running during peak school hours.
I have to be frank: all the solutions for student security cannot be found in an initiative like ours, it is the function of the government and the police to keep students safe. But us the students do have the power to take action to protect the future.
Going forward, SOS wants to get students together to come onboard and talk about the issues, but also to work on the substance. We ensured that lower sixth students are a part of the association so that when we graduate they can continue the initiative.
Youth lobbying for change
Sometimes in Jamaica you have an issue that comes to the attention of the public and it stays there for about three days, but then it goes back to normal. We cannot afford for the issue of student safety to be sidelined, we want it to be highlighted! Jamaica needs a national conversation on crime violence and how it affects young people and people in general and we have to come up with creative solutions.
We, the students, are not going to let this issue go.
Fulfilling children’s rights is at the heart of what we do at UNICEF. This year, as we commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, we feature a special ’30 under 30’ series, highlighting amazing Jamaican children and youth like Chad who are using their voices and talents to help protect and realise the rights of other young citizens. The focus of the series is on efforts to protect children from violence.