In a break with tradition, the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) gave eight primary school students a national voice by holding a Child Month Junior Panel recently.
The newest event in the observance’s calendar was aired live on Radio Cayman’s YouthFlex show on Wednesday, 12 May 2021. Panellists found the show’s one-off presenters, CI CARICOM Youth Ambassadors Jorel Bellafonte and Chantelle Young, relatable and were quickly put at their ease.
Given questions drawn up by the department’s Child Month Committee ahead of time, panellists clearly came prepared to have their opinions heard. Inspired by this year’s Child Month theme: My C.A.P.E: Challenges are Passable for Everyone, the main topic was the pandemic. Questions included the following:
● How has your relationship with school and teachers been strengthened by the pandemic?
● How did you manage the challenges surrounding school? and
● What positives have you learned from the pandemic?
“We decided that organising a Junior Panel for the first time in local Child Month history was a no-brainer given how universal pandemic challenges have been. Finding out just how primary school children are coping is important to gain insights in to their overall well-being,” said DCFS Deputy Director Rayle Roberts.
“The pandemic and the sacrifices it has required from each of us has been an epoch-defining challenge. So we thought it was important both for children and for the wider community to hear how younger children are coping and their biggest takeaways from this shared experience,” he added.
Aaron Delapenha, 11, from Edna Moyle Primary said, “I felt excited and nervous but at the same time very proud that I and the head girl were chosen from 99 students.”
For Jenae Terry, 11 from George Town Primary, the highlight of the show was not the live shout-outs or the banter. “For me the best bit was answering the questions,” she said.
“I had to really focus on what I had been doing during the pandemic. It made me realise all my school friends and I have been through, and that if you don’t get challenged you can’t really achieve anything in life.”
Another panellist, who had travelled the furthest to take up his spot was Malachi Khan from Cayman Brac. The 11-year-old West End Primary School student, thrilled by the prospect of friends and family on the Brac and Trinidad and Tobago seeing him on the panel, said: “What I found hardest to cope with was having to wear the mask and social distancing,” he recalled.
At the close of the event, each panellist received a certificate of participation and a DCFS swag bag.
To watch Junior Panel, visit https://bit.ly/3w1he3q