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JERMAINE IS just 14 years old

Posted by The man 
The man
JERMAINE IS just 14 years old
March 23, 2006 11:27AM
JERMAINE IS just 14 years old, but four years ago he was not attending school or engaged in the typical activities of other boys his age. He had a full-time job ­ begging on the streets of Kingston to feed his family.

At 10 years old, Jermaine was the only income earner in a family that comprised, his stepfather, his two brothers ­ one six years old and the other one year old ­ and his mother who was five months pregnant. Today, Jermaine's life has improved. He lives at Alpha Boys' Home, attends classes regularly, is a member of the school band and is feared by his peers on the football field. In June last year, he placed first in his class.

Before going to Alpha, Jermaine obeyed his mother's instructions and begged mainly in the Half-Way Tree area for three years. But in October 2001, a few weeks before his 10th birthday, Jermaine decided that he did not want to beg anymore. One night, he simply did not go home after he finished 'working'. Instead he went to a police officer and begged her to take him to a state home. She took him to Alpha.

Last week with his saxophone cradled in his lap, Jermaine mentally retraced his steps to four years ago, when his mother made him beg to feed his family.

"I was at school and doing well, but when I was seven years old, my mother made me stop going to school and took me on the road to hustle," he recounted. "I used to get between $200 and $1,000 a day," he continued.

Jermaine recalled that his mother was warned on a number of occasions by police officers to discontinue taking her son to beg on the streets. But she persisted.

When Jermaine ran away, his little brother Rahim, who was six years old, took his place at the traffic lights. Rahim was not attending school, and every evening when traffic was at its peak, his mother would instruct him to beg, while she waited at the side of the road with his one-year-old brother on her lap, partially concealing her pregnancy.

The little boy, who was barely tall enough to reach up to the windows of the vehicles, complained that even sometimes when he was tired and did not want to go, his mother still insisted that he begged. Again, police officers warned her about the dangers of the practice, again she ignored them. She was arrested in February 2002, and Rahim and his baby brother placed in state homes. The baby was placed at Glenhope and Rahim joined Jermaine at Alpha Boys' Home.

Rahim is now nine years old and he is barely taller than he was three years ago. His chubby legs peeked from beneath short khaki pants, and his plump cheeks dimpled frequently as he tried to hide behind his brother. He is breathless from having hurried from class, having just finished classes for the day. Like his older brother, he too placed first in his class last June.

He did not have much to say except that he wants to be part of the school band and play the saxophone like his brother when he is older.

"I want to be a musician and earn money to buy a car and other things," he said with a shy smile.

Jermaine, who also wants to be a musician, will in April sit Grade 2 Theory in music with the Royal School of Music. Sister Maria Goretti, who manages Alpha Boys' Home, said she plans to have Jermaine take all the music exams up to Grade 8, which will qualify him to play the saxophone expertly, and teach music when he leaves Alpha in three years.

Jermaine also has his sights set on becoming a professional footballer. If he does not succeed at that, he plans to join the army. However, he said music is his first choice.

"I am determined to make it as a musician," he said with steely determination. "Only God can take that away from me. If I pray and study hard, and I don't do well in my music exams, then I will see that as a sign from God that I should choose some other career," he explained.

At Alpha, Jermaine and Rahim have been able to reclaim their childhood. They have been given the opportunity to dream

Observer
Re: JERMAINE IS just 14 years old
March 23, 2006 12:46PM
"They have been given the opportunity to dream"

Same as author was given the opportunity to ruin the story by cheap sentimentalism.
bmd
Re: JERMAINE IS just 14 years old
March 23, 2006 01:54PM
Awwww you two, you just need to open up your hearts ;-)

$1000 a day seems worth being on the streets for .... then again, when you can learn to play th trumpt on such hallowed ground,,,
Re: JERMAINE IS just 14 years old
March 23, 2006 03:52PM
1,000.00 Jamaican Dollar equals 15.3004 US Dollar
papa ray
Re: JERMAINE IS just 14 years old
March 23, 2006 05:16PM
Hey Penny, I saw that article also, and thought 'another good reason to
contribute to the Alpha School'. I hope the youth makes it.

And that Jamaican money hustled worth $15 American?? Price of living in
Kingston-town makes that go in a Manhattan minute, if not faster.
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