Sat | Oct 20, 2018

Garth Rattray | Children without a childhood

Published:Monday | September 3, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Many years ago, a patient related to me how he almost lost his life. He was driving a pickup truck with several workers in the back, just after midnight. When they arrived at the intersection of Spanish Town Road and Maxfield Avenue, they noticed a small group of little boys who appeared to be toting assault rifles. Suddenly, they heard one of them clearly say, "Come mek we tess out dem gun yah." My patient sped away to the sound of rifle fire. Luckily, no one was hurt.

And one schoolday a few minutes before midday, I happened to be driving on the road when I noticed a group of little girls between eight and 12 years old (my guess). They were not wearing school uniforms and I wondered why, so I glanced at them to see if I was mistaken. I did not stare or gaze, it was a very brief glance. To my utter dismay, one of the older ones exclaimed, "Mi no waan no ol' man!"

This demonstrated that those little kids were being directly or indirectly exposed to sex. I briefly pondered my next move. Should I stop and reprimand the group for such sordid thoughts? Or should I just lick my injured pride and keep driving? Visions of an all-out 'tracing' match with little kids on the side of a major thoroughfare whizzed around my brain, so I drove on, seething all the way home.

Some construction site labourers take their little children along to carry their guns for them while playing nearby. We also know that, because children lack the mental development/maturity to fully distinguish between right and wrong, they are recruited as gunmen from an early age. And, if apprehended, their punishment is far less severe than that of an adult who commits the same crime - an additional asset for recruitment.

I was motivated to comment on the sad state of our children being allowed to grow almost like feral cats (puss pickney) because of a currently circulating video. It is a cell-phone production depicting rival gangs shooting at each other over some foolishness or the other. The young boys look as if they are prepubescent to mid-teens. They have in their possession fashioned, imitation handguns and stalk each other before engaging in several mock gun battles.

Shockingly, no adult was alert or responsible enough to notice or interrupt their elaborate preparations, or hear their loud simulations of gunfire (instead of the 'pwew-pwew' noises that we used to make while playing cowboys and Indians) or see them running around filming their violent little 'movie'.

 

AHEAD OF THEIR AGE

 

When I grew up, I had a childhood to look back on and reminisce. But, nowadays, many 'children' are only children because of their physical age. Sadly, thanks to poor parenting, and an uninvolved community, our sick society and the pitfalls of the information age (cellular devices, electronic tablets, laptops, desktop computers and television), they are way ahead of their chronological age in more ways than one.

Children are sent out to beg and work on the streets and, although we talk a lot about it, we only go through occasional and fleeting campaigns to scrape them up and call in their parents for possible court action. Currently, it's easy to see swarms of little children at several traffic lights trying to earn money, and no one is doing anything about it.

We must be far more vigilant. Aside from calling the Child Protection and Family Sevices Agency (888-PROTECT or listed numbers) to report any suspicion of, or actual, child abuse, we need dedicated phone numbers to call and report children working on the streets. 'Force-ripe' children often end up as rotten fruit that mess up our entire country.

- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.