Teacher says murder of former pupil ‘a tragic, senseless loss’
The former teacher of a murdered teenager said the killing was “a tragic, senseless loss that has a real effect not only in our community, but in the global community”.
Sophia Iris continues to teach a P3 class at Victor Scott Primary School, where her pupils – including Letrae Doeman who was shot and killed in Flatts – poured out their feelings for a class assignment in the wake of a murder on the grounds of their Pembroke school.
The children’s letters came shortly after the murder on the school field of Kimwandae Walker, 35, killed during Kite Day celebrations on April 2, 2010.
Mr Walker’s murder took place in front of dozens of people, including children.
Ms Iris spoke yesterday after Mr Doeman was named by police as the island’s latest victim of guns following a roadside attack on Friday morning that also left a 20-year-old man injured.
She said looking over the writings of seven- and eight-year-olds “brings back beautiful memories – their names and their little faces”.
“This is just a tragic, senseless loss that has a real effect not only in our community, but in the global community.”
She said the violence plaguing the island had included her family – her 22-year-old nephew, Steven Iris, was fatally stabbed in August 2013.
“He was my sister’s beloved oldest son,” Ms Iris said.
“At the time of the assignment, we were reeling as a school from that shooting on campus on Good Friday. I was just searching for something I could do to help the children make sense of it all.”
Ms Iris said she knew the assignment would raise some eyebrows.
“It was kind of risky. There were some in the school community saying, ‘you’re going to have little kids writing about this’? They needed a place to voice their concern.”
Children were tasked with writing letters describing their feelings about the island’s rampant gun violence.
Among the submissions, young Letrae wrote: “I think the police should shut down the guns and all the gunmen need to stop shooting and put away the guns and throw them in the trash.”
Ms Iris said: “Each of the children in my classroom including Letrae – may he rest in peace – was affected. They wrote about it through the lens of a seven-year-old.”
She said she remembered a photograph of the boy standing beside her.
“It is a picture to hold dear at this time,” Ms Iris said. “A lot of things come back to you when senseless tragedies like this happen.
“When you are looking at young men not having any regard for human life, that to me is a tragedy.
“We are Bermudians – known for our hospitality, known for the love of our people, for the beauty that’s not a physical commodity but a human resource. I am at a loss for words.”
She added: “We need to have more conversation and less reaction.”