next generation to save T&T
Dr Bhoe Tewarie
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
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
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
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 Seans teacher as
saying that he was a student of some promise.
Mrs Lumfai pointed in the direction of the canefield where
her sons 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 courtteenage boys with
their heads covered to hide their identitiesand 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 dont 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
Why cant 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 cant 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 cant 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 cant 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
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
Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie is principal at the St Augustine
campus of the UWI.