ANGER and grief gripped Jamaica College in St Andrew yesterday as students grappled with the death of one of their schoolmates late Wednesday at the hands of a savage, knife-wielding robber.
Fourteen-year-old Nicholas Francis, a third form pupil, died from stab wounds inflicted by a man who attempted to steal his cellular phone while he was riding on a coaster bus home from school.
He was stabbed in the chest and arm and fell from the bus, resulting in his arm being broken. The driver of the bus rushed him to the University Hospital of the West Indies where he died while being treated.
Yesterday, his grieving schoolmates were urged not to resort to violence in their quest for revenge.
Zinett Francis-Walcott, who taught Nicholas resource and technology in first form, described the boy as calm and well behaved. She said although Nicholas missed most of that school year recovering from a surgery, he still managed to do his work.
“I am sad and at the same time angry that a grown man could attack a 14-year-old boy who did not pose a threat to him and the way in which he was savagely murdered. I’m very, very angry, but I believe in God and I know that in time he will get his reward,” she stated.
In addressing the students who gathered inside the auditorium at the Old Hope Road school yesterday, Acting Principal Wayne Robinson told them that while they may be angry about the situation, it is not a time to think about retribution and violence, but rather a time for reflection and prayer.
“There should be absolutely no retaliation, no knives, no arguments. I am going to ask one thing of every ‘College Man’ (student) and that is, some time today when you are alone, pray for Nicholas’s family; pray for each other and ask for comfort,” Robinson advised.
He appealed to the students to be careful and be their brother’s keeper while on the road. Robinson also encouraged them to start acting responsibly as it relates to safety and to keep a watchful eye on their homes and their families, especially those living in single-parent households.
“Look out also for your teachers a number of our teaching staff are females… we are responsible for taking care of our females. We respect our women, so start with your mother and your sister; please let us learn something from this situation,” the acting principal stated.
In speaking directly after the gathering, Robinson explained that it was especially difficult for Francis’s classmates, as he is the second student from the class that have died since the start of the new school year. He stated that Jordan Miller, also of form 3C, died two months ago after suffering from a cardiomyopathy, which is a chronic disease of the heart muscle.
“So the first week of the school term we had a funeral and then right after that, this now. So they’ve had it rough and the whole third form, [and] the school have really felt it, because a little boy in first form asked me, ‘Sir, so I can’t tek the bus anymore’. This boy’s parents nuh have nuh car enuh, what am I to tell a boy like that? My fifth formers want to arm themselves and they say they want [revenge],” Robinson said.
He maintained, however, that he would not be condoning any form of violence as if the students arm themselves with knives, they will face the penalty of expulsion. He urged the students to desist from taking the coaster buses and travel on those operated by the State-owned Jamaica Urban Transit Company buses instead.
“It’s a knee-jerk reaction for me, but I’m disappointed in how the bus [operator] handled it. Yes, the driver carried him to the hospital, but the fight started long enough for them to intervene. This one man punched him up and threw his [Nicholas] bag off the bus; a boy threw the bag back on the bus, and when the robber threw the bag off again and Nicholas was exiting the bus, the man stabbed him while he was on the step and he fell and broke his arm,” Robinson said.
“It was so bad that the bone was protruding,” Robinson recounted, explaining that he got this report from other boys who witnessed the incident.
The principal added that there needs to be a response from the country as he can’t understand how adults could stand up and watch a grown man beat a little boy.
“This one is hard because this is murdering a boy, murdering a boy in front of a full bus of people …Nicholas was a quiet, jovial and decent boy. His chemistry teacher who taught him in first form said he was one of the best boys we have,” Robinson said.
One of the school’s guidance counsellors who dealt with form 3C explained that the students were really expressive and they also underwent a session with a psychologist from the Ministry of Education. She stated that they will continue to have counselling sessions with the students.
Francis’s classmates also paid tribute to him through messages mounted on the walls of Form 3C.