Wed | Dec 7, 2016

Protect our children, is Dr Paul Wright's View

Published:Monday | April 6, 2015 | 11:05 PMDr. Paul Wright

How often have we heard the following phrase, 'the children are our future'.

One would expect that those saying and believing that truism would be active in doing something to ensure that 'the children are our future'. But the reality is that we in Jamaica do not behave as if 'the children are our future'.

We are regaled daily with the awful stories of the abuse of our children. We hear that they are murdered, bought and sold as commodities, transferred from one school to another with parents who agree to the transfer receiving (a) a cell phone, or (b) a motor vehicle, or(c) a fridge, or (d) promise of regular employment, and so on.

The recent revelation that one mother sold her daughter's virginity for $6000 serves to concretise the fact that there are some of us who do regard children as commodities.

Consider for a moment another well used and easily recognised phrase, 'children live what they learn'.

The murder of a 12-year-old child by another in a fuss over a chair has brought out the usual wringing of hands and well worn statement "WE CANNOT CONTINUE LIKE THIS".

Indeed, we cannot continue like this, but what really needs to be done?

I propose that we begin by demonstrating to our children that those who treat children as commodities while mouthing platitudes and escaping sanction when found out will be brought to justice!

Let us listen to the lament of children who tell us of studying in sub-standard facilities (no light at night, terror and gunfire at night) in order to do well enough at GSAT exams to be placed in the school of his/her first choice.

Having been successful, the child continues to do well academically and as part of a holistic education trains with a football or athletic squad to represent the school at sports, only to be denied this opportunity because a more talented, athletically gifted child, who did not meet the academic requirement of the GSAT score and thus was not sent to that child's first or even second choice, "miraculously" joins the school.

That talented/athletically gifted child was "bought"/ transferred and is now on the team, while the displaced child listens in awe and disbelief while his/her head teacher denies publicly any knowledge of the "transfer" for the sole purpose of winning at sports. That child will "live what they learn".

When a child from rural Jamaica encourages parents, friends and acquaintances to sacrifice and purchase tickets for the last day of Champs when he/she is likely to be competing, only to hear on television at 4 p.m. on Saturday the grand stand is "sold out" and completely full, while frantic relatives and friends with legitimate tickets are unable to get in, it must be extremely galling to hear the representative of the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) mouth the words of a "Shaggy" hit song "it wasn't me"; and at the same time try to cast blame on his/her hapless relatives who are now accused of unruly behaviour.

That child will "live what they learn".

And when a gifted child is inveigled to become an ambassador for a telecommunication company, unveils the company's tag-line at a pre-selected moment, which amazingly coincides with the company's announcement on Instagram, only to hear the company's spokesperson deny any culpability, so too members of the school administration and coaching staff, that child learns an invaluable lesson ... deny deny deny.

The only time the telecommunications company admits any liability or responsibility is when a noted QC writes with a promise to take a matter further if no apology is forthcoming for the use of the child's image without permission.

In the above examples, no one admitted culpability and no one was sanctioned. Thus the lesson is well learnt. Do whatever feels good. If caught ... deny deny deny. "A-nuh-nutten".

We definitely need either divine intervention, or we need to recognise and sanction any leader who is caught doing the wrong thing. We cannot go on like this. We can do something about it. Yes we can.