Friday, December 15, 2017

Children’s welfare on the back burner


Every self-respecting parent is consumed with the desire to raise his or her child with love, ambition and hope.
Indeed, it was our first PM, Dr Eric Williams, who in 1962, said the future of the nation is entrusted to the tender and loving hands of our children and our pride as a nation is enshrined in their innocent hearts.
Half a century later and we are painfully aware of huge gaps between the desire and the real deal. The reality is that risky behaviours in our children are too often not stymied by mindful parenting, and society is burdened with abuse and violence.
The Children’s Authority was finally set up in 2015 to fill gaps created by poor parenting and economic and social ills that cheat children of their desired ambitions. To serve its needs, a central assessment centre and several transition homes were under construction since 2014. What has happened to these projects?
Children at the homes—St Jude’s and St Michael’s—were to be medically and psychologically assessed in a state-of-the-art facility, and provided with alternative housing, because studies revealed the utter inadequacy of those institutions.
Since 2014, people were graduating from parenting workshops designed to uplift morale and teach coping skills. The third report of the 2014 Child Protection Task Force provided holistic interventions to safeguard children.
All child-centred interventions were focused in one ministry.
I understand that those initiatives are now languishing because of politics, and services, if available, are helter-skelter, under miscellaneous ministries.
There is no known individual who drives initiatives for the welfare of children. Someone must be charged with the responsibility and be impassioned to get results focused on improving the chances of success for our children.
There is no facility to treat with children who may be mentally ill or whose behaviours point to borderline emotional disorders, despite a completed Children’s Hospital building in Couva.
Couple these institutional gaps with the messaging children now get from various media, and marry the latest message from our new “in your face” display of children “training” with military-type guns, and we have a subliminal message burnt into the psyche of their innocent hearts.
How in heaven’s name can an ordinary parent tell his child that using guns is wrong when leaders seek to justify such “training”?
It doesn’t matter who gets court marshalled now, because the sanctioning has stuck. And peer pressure is a compounding denominator!
We must have a children’s ministry to focus on the gaps in the needs of our children. Academic education is only part of the agenda for holistic development of a people. It is imperative to nurture children’s emotional well-being from a strategic perspective.
Raziah Ahmed
Former Senate president