Friday 7th April, 2006



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Save next generation to save T&T

By Dr Bhoe Tewarie

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I visited the family of Sean Luke last Sunday with members of my own family and I listened to Mrs Lumfai as she spoke lovingly and painfully about her dead son. For me it was a troubling experience and for all of us the uncertainty and fragility of life could not be escaped.

She showed us the little purple flowers that Sean used to pick for her every morning and pointed to the window on which he had scotch-taped some of those flowers which had since dried up.

She brought out his collection of stamps. “I never bought him a proper album for stamps,” she explained, “this photo album is the one he used.” And she shared with us a treasured piece of school work that little Sean had done recently.

It consisted of four separate pages capturing the Asian tsunami at the end of 2004. The first page was the sea rolling in towards the shore. The second displayed the rising water. In the third, the sea was full of rage and was juxtaposed against an aerial view of the tourist resort area on shore. The last picture captured the devastation after the tsunami hit.

Sean had written short bits of commentary on each page. As I looked at the drawings with Mrs Lumfai, I remembered that one of the newspapers had reported Sean’s teacher as saying that he was a student of some promise.

Mrs Lumfai pointed in the direction of the canefield where her son’s brutalised body was found and then she spoke about the two boys who were eventually charged with murder and have now made one appearance in court.

I could not help but think: in this country girl children making babies without a thought of the possible implications and boy children killing other children without a pang of conscience or feelings of remorse.

The next day I saw the television coverage of the appearance of the two alleged murderers in court—teenage boys with their heads covered to hide their identities—and a crowd of angry people, some expressing their desire for justice, others seeking revenge; some just wanting to see their faces to have their curiosity satisfied.

It is legitimate to ask what kind of parenting, schooling and socialisation can produce teenage boys of 13 and16 who can possibly be involved in such an act of savagery and barbarianism.

We are told that the younger of the boys was a high school dropout. What was he doing with his time and who supervised his activities or offered him guidance? Where did he call home and what was it like?

Why have young criminals emerged in our society? And what is the process by which little boys become killers and sex fiends? What is the role of adults in this process, especially the male adult relatives?

How do we deal with teenage school dropouts as a society? What role, if any, does the State play or can the State play in the lives of such people?

I don’t think that these two boys, now before the courts, could have had anything approaching good parenting in their lives. Did their mothers pay them any attention and were their fathers ever around? And if they were, did they help to nurture them and give them counsel or did they brutalise, victimise and humiliate them?

It is possible that all of this might come out in court. The point is, though, that as callously and unthinkingly as we are producing children, so are we equally, callously and unthinkingly destroying potentially productive lives. And there is need for public policy to take into account the massive deterioration and disintegration that have taken place in our society over the years.

Why can’t we pass a law in this country which would require any woman who is pregnant to have compulsory schooling in parenting which would focus on desirable ways of bringing up a child?

The male partner should be part of parenting school arrangements, if he can be identified, and the lessons on parenting should include birth control best practice and attachment to a health clinic over a period of about three years in which positive values would be reinforced.

If the male partner for whatever reason cannot be part of the exercise then that should be taken into account in terms of social support.

Why can’t we establish a system in which all schools identify those children who require special attention of whatever kind and develop the infrastructure and the wherewithal to pay attention to such children and assist them in finding ways and means of playing a constructive role in society?

Why can’t we develop a strategy for extricating rehabilitatable offenders from the hardened criminals within the existing prison system and then embark on a programme for educating, training and skilling them so that they can play a productive role in society when they leave the prison.

Why can’t we develop an approach which identifies the problem schools and their links with some of our crime-ridden communities in a conscientious and responsible way and design and develop a programme to save the next generation?

It is pretty clear that with the drug culture that has engulfed the society, the criminal culture that is overwhelming us, the paedophile culture that is becoming clearer is very much entrenched, the buggery culture that seems to be an epidemic, and the incest culture that is more pervasive than we care to admit, we have a problem on our hands that is not easy to solve.

We must, therefore, begin to focus in a holistic way, taking a comprehensive, integrated approach on the yet unborn and on the young from babyhood to 16 who are, by and large, still open to influence of a positive kind.

We must save the next generation if T&T is to have any hope. And we must find the means to summon our will to save the next generation if our lives are to have any meaning.

Not that we must cease to fight against crime, corruption, drugs and governmental indifference but we do need to do something now in order to have a tomorrow to which we can look forward with hope.

Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie is principal at the St Augustine campus of the UWI.




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