Carol Samuels, Contributor
WITHIN ONE week seven children lost their lives in violent incidents causing much lamenting and grief. Our children seem to be under attack daily, from a barrage of situations that pose a serious threat to their survival, development, and well-being. They are frightened because of this daily diet of murder fed to them, which, at times, include the killing of fellow students, family and friends right before their eyes.
We are feeling the heat of battle against an enemy that is attacking us from all sides and is digging in and eroding the very future of our country. Every day there are calls from a variety of sources, responding to the distress caused by gruesome nature of the crimes against our children. There are others lobbying for swift improvements in the situation. At times, like this, there is generally a great deal of sentiment expressed in words, but are they followed through with actions? We continue to profess daily, our belief that children should be educated, nurtured and protected to maintain a stable society. But do we really believe it? If we truly believe it the manifestations will be evident in how we treat our children, and where their issues are placed on the national agenda.
Our commitment to our children cannot only be written on billboards and signs along the roads, or in plans tucked away for future action. The future of our children is now. Despite the many initiatives, the issues of children have not really received the prompt attention they deserve.
PROVIDE PROTECTIVE ENVIRONMENT
We have a duty to provide the protective environment, which children need to grow up feeling that they can achieve the level of development, which ultimately will improve their ability to become productive citizens. This is no easy task, as it challenges all of us to make several adjustments beginning with viewing and accepting children as worthy individuals, equal in value and deserving of the best we have to offer.
We expect the Government to lead, but cannot depend solely on this leadership if we are to enjoy any measure of success. It is going to take all the important groups in society working together to achieve this. The home, the school, the church, the media and the community becoming part of the discussion, and committed enough to play their part in the transformation so badly needed for us to ensure the stability we so desperately crave. Many of these institutions have weakened over time and no longer provide the firm foundation that is absolutely essential if we are to produce children who become capable adults. As a matter of fact, it is the failure of many of these vital institutions that has assisted in causing the disillusionment among many of our young persons today.
Where are the families? We continue to fool ourselves while helpers and television raise our children. Are children really learning what family means? How many children realise that, family generally means mother and father working together with other institutions in the community to ensure the success of their children. Our women continue to carry the burden of being the backbone of the development of our children. Are our children being taught to take responsibility for their actions and to be respectful to others in authority? They are drowning in materialism and are sometimes not even aware of the many sacrifices made by previous generations to ensure their development and advancement.
We at the Jamaica Coalition on the Rights of the Child believe the time has come for us to take a long, hard look at what is happening in Jamaica, fully aware that this did not just happen overnight. It is having such a serious effect on our children we just cannot continue to ignore it. It has been a long time coming as over the many years we have ignored the indicators that gave insights into what has been brewing for a couple of decades. We have ignored, neglected and abused our children over time, and they now reflect this in repeating the cycles of violence and delinquency. Many of our children are growing up without an awareness of conscience as a guiding force as the institutions charged with the responsibility to assist with the moral and spiritual development of children seem to have lost their impact.
As an organisation we are firm believers in the value of partnerships and collaboration, as a result we have participated in a wide range of meetings and consultations to develop many bold and progressive policies, plans and programmes. A major concern for us, however, is the length of time that it takes for these plans and policies to translate into appropriate interventions, especially for those children who need protection now.
SOCIAL AND MORAL DEVELOPMENT
As a country we cannot continue to pay lip service and implement stop-gap, short-term solutions to a situation that took many years to get to this disturbing level. We, therefore, must now begin to convert our collective energies and resources into serious investments in our children, so that we can create and maintain that protective environment that will improve their status and give them hope. We must begin to seriously address the root causes and the many variables that make the issue such a complex one. When the safety and survival of children are not guaranteed, their development weighs in the balance, and eventually, the future of our country. We owe it to our children to invest in their physical, social and moral development as well as their emotional capacity so that they can embrace the future as competent, well-adjusted adults living in a stable society.
We cannot afford to lose sight of the fact that we are dealing with a very complex issue, with serious implications for the future of our country. We, therefore, need to begin to move the process forward in a more timely and strategic manner with all the various actors bringing their collective wisdom, energies and resources to the table. The Jamaican media has acted as a catalyst on many occasions. We would like to challenge them once again to assist in the process of public dialogue that will not only continue the search for solutions, but bring about a better understanding of the urgency required to address the various social and economic issues, that continue to impact negatively on the survival, development and protection of our children.
Carol Samuels is executive director of Jamaica Coalition on the Rights of the Child. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.