Editorial: Where are the parents?
When citizens abandon their parental duties, the State has to step in and exercise new kinds of authority and control. This is happening right now in Montego Bay, the western Jamaica city.
A significant message is being sent by Senior Superintendent of Police Steve McGregor who recently instituted a 9 p.m. curfew for students in Montego Bay. He did something similar in the West Kingston Police Division a few years back.
The maxim 'the children are our future' rings hollow with almost daily reports of children being abused in their homes, in schools and other social spaces. Violence in schools, uncontrollable and disruptive student behaviour, and sexual abuse are all phenomena that give us pause and cause us to wonder what Jamaica will look like in the future.
Some parents consider their duty done when they send their children to school, and they feel comfortable leaving it up to teachers to give instruction, discipline, counsel, sometimes even to feed their children. But the moulding of young minds must begin at home, where parents ought to inculcate into their young minds a sense of responsibility, good values and attitudes, dedication and commitment to their country. This is certainly how we prepare the youth for tomorrow, for when a plant is young it can be trained to go in a specific direction. Matured trees are more resistant to training.
A ROLE IN THE FUTURE
The youth, too, must believe that they can achieve much through hard work, discipline, and dedication. They must understand that they have a role to play in a future Jamaica.
It is disappointing that every national opinion poll conducted on the subject finds an overwhelming majority of Jamaican youth looking outward, feeling that this country is not good enough for them, and expressing a desire to live somewhere else. There is urgent work to be done to change the teaching and learning outcomes in our schools to the point where more of our young people will relish the idea of contributing to nation-building here at home. Our children need new inspiration, new models and new motivation.
We support the efforts of Senior Superintendent McGregor - though we reserve judgment on its effect in law - to remove vulnerable children from the streets where they stand a good chance of becoming pawns in adult criminal enterprises. The benefits from the police action will accrue to communities and, ultimately, the nation. But it will not happen overnight; it is likely to be a slow process.
We go further to suggest that when children break the curfew, their parents should be held accountable if they fail to provide an acceptable explanation for their children's loitering or truancy.
It is obvious that the breakdown in parenting did not just start; the criminals, lottery scammers, drug traffickers and gunmen were nurtured in communities by family members including those who benefited from their largesse. Now they have been let loose on society where they maim, rape and kill.
The neglect of the past is shadowing us today and it is turning Jamaica into an uncomfortable place in which to live and do business.