May 10, 2007—“Violence is terrible in these inner-city communities. These people are war mongers. Every day they just fireing gunshots and desturbing people. They are going around and even kicking off persons’ doors and shooting them. We cannot take this any more. These things are going on every night and every day. This is getting into people’s head. We cannot take this any more. GUNMEN, PLEASE STOP IT NOW!!!”
These are the words of Nickesha Lindo, a grade-5 student at Jones Town Primary School in Kingston, Jamaica.
Nickesha is one of 50 pupils at her school who took part in a poster competition on the theme of “How violence impacts my daily life.”
But Jamaica is not alone in being affected by inner city violence. These children’s cries for help are echoed in many other parts of the Caribbean and throughout the world – in rich and poor countries alike. And the problems are by no means all homegrown. As a new World Bank-United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report on crime and violence in the Caribbean (see below) clearly shows, narcotics trafficking, and the guns it brings with it, are at the core of the Caribbean’s high murder and assault rates.
The six winners of the poster competition with staff from the Jones Town Primary School, JSIF and the World Bank who helped to organize it.
Why not hold a competition? Bernice van Bronkhorst , an urban specialist and a member of the task team for the Jamaica inner city project, had the idea for the poster competition about four months ago, when she and her colleagues were looking for artwork for the World Bank-UNODC report.
“We thought the competition would be a good way to produce an attractive and original cover for the book and to give the Jones Town children a chance to express how they feel about the violence they see in their daily lives,” she said. “The poster competition was a real boost to their self-esteem.”
What the Posters Show Many of the posters depict young men either killing each other or killing innocent bystanders. A picture by 12-year-old Samantha Hall, called “Stray Shot,” shows two gunmen with a girl standing between them, holding shopping bags. One of the gunmen calls out “Little girl out of the way!” but it is too late, the bullet hits the girl and the girl falls to the ground in a pool of blood.
Another poster, by grade-1 student Alecia Allen, shows the chain effect of violence: a boy shouts “Please do not kill me, I have to help my mother”; but the gunman shoots anyway, the mother cries because her only son is dead; and the sister cries too because her big brother is gone. (View the slideshowto see these and other entries in the competition.)
All 50 children who submitted entries in the poster competition received a gift.
Prizes for the Winners The award ceremony for the competition, held on April 18 at Jones Town Primary School, went ahead despite violence in the area just the day before.
Abhas Jha, World Bank task team leader for the Jamaica inner city project, was struck by how calm the kids appeared, despite the difficult environment in which they live.
“Many of these children have lost a brother, a father, or an uncle because of violence,” he explained. “But when you look at the kids, you realize that their parents have the same aspirations for them as we have for our kids.”
Many people were involved in organizing the competition, including the head of Jones Town Primary School, the school counselor, and the JSIF social counselor for the area. The World Bank provided the materials the children needed - paper, pens and crayons – to produce their pictures. Children in two categories – grades 1-3 (ages 6-9) and grades 4-6 (ages 10-12) – received first, second and third prizes of $75, $50 and $25 respectively. All the other children received a gift for participating in the competition.
The posters are being exhibited at the school and a selection will be displayed at the “20/20 Vision” Conference on the Caribbean that the World Bank is co-sponsoring in June 2007.
Report on Crime and Violence in the Caribbean The World Bank-UNODC report Crime, Violence, and Development: Trends, Costs, and Policy Options in the Caribbean features two of the most colorful posters, by 12-year-old Brandon Leray and 9-year-old Keyshawn Williams, on the cover and includes Nickesha Lindo’s entry as an inside foldout.
The report finds that high rates of crime and violence in Caribbean countries are undermining growth, threatening human welfare, and impeding social development.