A month ago, I witnessed a group of primary school children at a closing-off function: well-behaved and respectful. I was not in Westmoorings but in Laventille.
How do we get to the video clips of violent mothers or masked soldiers armed to their teeth from such a picture of innocence? What gives rise to ‘out-of-control’ mothers? Why does the innocent child grow up to be a societal problem requiring armed intervention? What are the solutions for such situations?
The answer lies in the kind of community we want our children to grow up in. Guns carried by soldiers do not bring peace and childhood freedom any more than guns carried by gang members.
Can we be happy when our children doodle guns instead of cars or go to school hungry? What do we expect to happen to those children? Is our lesson he who has the biggest gun is the baddest man on the block?
Remember when our neighbours were the guards, watching and reporting on us? They knew our names, our mothers’ circumstances and would feed and look out for us.
Our teachers were our parents and exemplars in the community fully supported by our parents. The State was not doing more than providing schools and good libraries for us to congregate.
Now teachers are a despised bunch and subjected to abuse by all. Adults fear retribution if they correct a neighbour’s child. Stigma damns our poor with dilapidated schoolrooms and few opportunities await those who brave the system.
The community is broken up as the value of education and therefore the possibility of getting a worthwhile job disappear.
This happens in the wider context of our society’s ever-increasing show of wealth. When jobs disappear, the young people hang around on the street and gangs become the new community. But man must eat so they have to either go the route of drugs or other types of criminal activity.
What is a parent to do if she does not want to leave her child up to the poor schools and the gangs? With no support system of after-school care how is the working single mother to cope?
In both videos the parents were attempting to teach important lessons of social behaviour but we focused on their method without any sympathy for the stressful odds that are against them. Did we see the physical circumstances of the homes or were we too busy condemning the women? Did we understand their struggles?
State intervention and the Defence Force with their big guns cannot help. The Defence Force was helping with the MILAT and MYPART programmes but greater wisdom substituted iron fists. When corruption by the drug interests deals with the current Defence Force initiative, we would realise we lost our last hope.
Can the Children’s Authority help poverty and stigma? We have seen the results of State bungling in the pitiable St Michael’s secrets. Can we depend on the State?
Our problems defy quick solutions and we have to decide how we will nurture healthy children in all our communities. There is no Messiah or political party to fix this. We have to go back to the beginning.