Thu | Feb 9, 2023

Mark Wignall | Grab him or heal him

Published:Sunday | December 4, 2022 | 12:07 AM

The situation was most convenient for me to immediately sprout an advanced degree in clinical psychology as I watched that hauntingly troubling video of the Homestead Primary student on his personal burst of anger and violence. For a while, I came...

The situation was most convenient for me to immediately sprout an advanced degree in clinical psychology as I watched that hauntingly troubling video of the Homestead Primary student on his personal burst of anger and violence.

For a while, I came close to breaking my rules on corporal punishment. I banished the thought in five seconds as I gazed at the youngster’s face and his body language.

Unlike me, many people would be saying he needed a good walloping. “Dem fi drape him an give him a good buss a**,” said a schoolteacher friend of mine.

The boy was, maybe 10 or, at the most, 12 years old. I saw an introverted confusion crying out in him because it did not allow him to fully express himself with words. As he walked from one classroom door to another, hurling broken bits of masonry stones through the doors and at the windows, he wanted someone to save him. Or see him. Or listen to him. Or give him about 10 kilos of self-worth.

The teachers could not reasonably be expected to bring instant solutions to the sudden trauma, short of grabbing him and tying him up with nylon rope.

And how could they when his entire being was caught up in a confounded state with no discernible starting or ending points. Certainly the violence that had captured him for the moment must have been imported from somewhere. The home? Domestic incoherence? The community? A crude mix of all?

Was there a girl whom he liked who was constantly and openly jeering him while his young brain could not deal with the rejection?

Or was he living out the early stages of that aggression gene found in too many of us.

In watching him, it seems a harder sell that the violence of his actions was THE point. More likely it could be simply his need to advertise the terrible psychosocial pains pulling apart his insides. And signalling his adult destination with many homicidal tomorrows.

I attended KC with someone like him in the 1960s. Mountains of patience by school administrators and empty promises by his parents led to him being eventually kicked out of high school. Less than a year later, we were walking up South Camp Road on the way to a Manning Cup match at the stadium. My school friends and I – four of us.

And then we saw him at about the same time as he saw us. He was on the other side of the road. He bent down and picked up a bottle. He hurled it at us and, as it whizzed by, it crashed into a nearby concrete wall and splintered into numerous bits of glass flying every which where. Then a stone. He was crazy mad.

We tore off up South Camp Road like track stars as he scowled at us.

A few years later, he made the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s 10 most-wanted list. Months later, a policeman’s bullet silenced him for good. Dozens replaced him.


Based on data coming from the Ministry of Education (MoE), about 7,000 youngsters of high school and primary age have not returned to school since the beginning of this academic year. In quoting MoE’s data, Public Administration and Appropriations Committee Chairman Mikael Phillips saw what had to be dire circumstances, with less than 50 per cent of that crucial zero-to-six cohort actually in school.

At the national level, this ought to border on being catastrophic. As much as I believe I have captured significant elements of the vibes and ‘livity’ of the humble folk at street level, there is still much I do not know. I wish I could speak of the prevailing thought or action in the household where a six-year-old child has only been exposed to three months of schooling. And with no firm plans for enrolling the child in any formal type of schooling.

The poorest person in Jamaica, living closer to a pit latrine than the front porch, knows the value of education to save the next generation. But, many times, that noble value clashes with the fact that most of any cash earned in a day or over the week has to go towards the purchase of food. Cooking oil, flour, cornmeal, rice, mixed parts, curry, tinned mackerel, two onions.

Even if the plans for schooling come intermittently and some people love to boast that, “none a my pickney nuh deh pon PATH”, at many times, that can be a saving grace if not a solid bellyfull. But much of how those pieces are balanced in the reality equation is unknown to me.


It would seem that the only sensible way to draft the laws most suitable to the advancement of a country is to let reality script the laws.

I can understand those who are always championing the standard “it is the law. We have to abide by it”.

Sure. For murder, rape, arson, kidnapping, wounding, etc. The laws governing those crimes are immutable.

But the movement in the building regulations has to open up itself to the fact that ground space must yield to the reality of high-rise space.

I can remember when lower Mountain View Avenue was residential. Now that entire avenue has long been taken over by small commercial spaces. Next step, high-rises.

Vineyard Town, Rollington Town, Kencot have given way to the reality of rapid commercial growth. High-rise mix of commercial and residential is unstoppable.

The Provisional Development Order 2017 has not yet been finalised but we can sense in which direction it will trend. Residential areas like Havendale and Meadowbrook have felt more that the touch of high-rises.

I suspect that much of the paperwork in those areas has not yet caught up with the numerous developments from contractors on those sites.

In a better appreciation of the infrastructural reality, we know that big money still holds the sway. Not to worry, though. Democracy gives us the right to protest where suited. But we also know that, in the protest, it is only another game where big funds run things.

Mark Wignall is a political and public affairs analyst. Send feedback to and