It takes a village to raise a child, an often repeated African proverb, did not apply in the case of Makeisha Maynard, just eight-years-old, who got little protection from her community and country in her short, tragic life. As more details of her difficult life and brutal, untimely death come to the fore, it becomes painfully clear that she was a little girl lost, a child who fell between the cracks, her plight undetected by welfare agencies and law enforcement.
There is no other way to explain why this child, the victim of an assault when she was just eight months old, still ended up in the custody of the parent charged in that matter so that eventually he became her murderer.
Even the sketchiest of details about Makeisha’s dysfunctional family circumstances should have raised alarms, such as the fact that she and her older sibling had not been attending school for about a year. That alone should have brought some scrutiny and intervention but the people who knew—family, friends, neighbours—kept silent. Only now, in hushed tones and mostly under the cover of anonymity, are some speaking about the hellish conditions, including abuse, that this little girl endured.
Yesterday, as he detailed police interventions in matters involving the Maynard family, Police Commissioner Gary Griffith commented that “people knew that something was happening and they failed to step forward.” His appeal to members of the public to say something if they see something should be taken to heart by every single citizen of this country that has been recoiling in horror at the level of brutality inflicted upon little Makeisha in the final moments of her life.
No amount of hand wringing or expressions of regret and despair will make a difference for this little girl we have lost and, regrettably, Makeisha is not the first child in this country whose plight was overlooked until it was exposed following a heinous crime. When four-year-old Amy Annamunthodo was tortured and beaten to death by her stepfather 14 years ago, the outrage and grief from all corners of T&T were almost palpable, only to die down as soon as her story faded from the headlines.
The village that is T&T is falling far short when it comes to nurturing and protecting children. Those who lost their lives get attention when it is much too late, those that survive carry deep physical and emotional scars into adulthood—all because their community kept silent. And we wonder why the nation is plagued by so much violence and crime.
Decades after this country signed on to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and committed to protecting them from abuse and harm, T&T stands accused of breaking that pledge.