The time has come to rethink our education practices and take Belize’s children off these killing streets at lunchtime. The Ministry of Education, teachers, community activists and unions should join hands in leading the way forward on this initiative.
It is traumatizing to see seven and eight-year-old children dodging between speeding cars, weaving themselves through busy streets, riding on handlebars or motorcycles, and running in front of large buses or huge trucks to make their way home for a midday meal.
Added to this danger are uncaring drivers who see Belize’s streets only as a roadway to get their passengers or goods from Point A to Point B, no matter who or what is in their path.
In Western Belize, uncaring drivers are evident. Some drivers are even accused of drinking and driving during the day.
Those of us who grew up in Cayo years ago have romantic memories of walking home from school during the lunch hour busily chatting with our little friends about the morning lessons or teasing other students on the way with the friendly backdrop of the green hills and colorful homes behind us. San Pedro children of those days will probably describe the white sandy beaches and clear blue sea beside them as they made their way home peacefully. There was little worry back then about speeding cars, large buses, heavy machinery or child predators.
Fast-forward to 2014 and the reality is of a very different Belize. The recent tragedy of 8-year-old Kyeisha Joseph, who was knocked down on her way to school, is a grave reminder of “crazy traffic” traversing our nation’s streets that brings danger to schoolchildren.
The cruel murder of Jasmine Lowe and the unsolved disappearance of the Rash children in Punta Gorda are also reminders of how ruthless streets have become in our villages, towns and cities. While these children became victims under other circumstances, the incidents nevertheless underscore the dangers children face on our streets at every hour. They are reminders that we need to address the safety of children with renewed vigor.
Pedophiles, human-traffickers, kidnappers, drunk drivers, vultures, and murderers are all freely roaming Belize’s streets, ready to pounce on little children at the behest of their twisted minds. Filled with innocence, small children may not be able to identify the dangers around them as they make their way to and from school at lunchtime – until it is too late.
We all agree that children are exposed to much more danger on the streets than in the past. Therefore, sadly, it is time to rethink our education policies and practices and take action to bring this lunchtime tradition from Belize’s colonial past to an end, time to remove the littlest ones from these killing streets at mid-day.