Protecting our brood
It were better . . . that a millstone were hanged about his neck . . . than that he should offendone of these little ones. – Luke 17:2, King James Version
Two national organizations recently held events the main purpose of which was to pray for the nation’s children in schools.
Women of Excellence and Prayer Warriors International must be lauded for the torrents of prayers which they sent up to heaven on behalf of the youth.
Not only did they pray for the children, but both events recognized the mammoth task which the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development, the principals, the teachers and other staff have in building character, moulding minds and shaping the personalities of our children.
While addressing the service at Prayer Warriors International, located at Pasture Road in St Michael, I drew attention to the need for greater protection for our children.
I suggested that perhaps we might learn some lessons from a hen as she protects her brood of chicks. We all know how protective hens are of their chicks. Once the eggs are hatched, the hen covers them from the elements and from anything which she feels will harm or expose them to danger. In fact, she will defend them with her own life. One notices as one approaches the hen how she prickles her feathers hedgehog-like to ward off danger.
Recently, a toddler was found wandering on the highway. A few years ago, a mother was taken before the court for leaving her offspring alone in the house while she attended a fete. Around the world, it is shocking the level of harm to which children, the products of our collective groins and wombs, are exposed.
One of the most frequent headlines in newspapers around the world is: “Man Rapes Daughter”. According to the Times Of India, a 50-year-old man was charged with raping his 16-year-old daughter. An Argentinian man was charged with raping his daughter from age 13 and having ten children with her (The Australian). We all recall very well the case which shocked the world when Josef Fritzl of Austria was sentenced to life in prison for having his daughter imprisoned for 24 years, fathering seven children with her and for killing one of them.
Very recently, a 69-year-old German was charged with nearly 500 counts of rape after fathering three children with his daughter over a period of 34 years at their home in Bavaria. The first act occurred when she was 12, when she was beaten into submission and raped several times weekly. According to the New York Times, a Manhattan man raped his five-year-old daughter and then offered her to another man he had met on a telephone chat line. The man subsequently joined him in sexually abusing the girl.
But the situation of instances of child abuse in Barbados is no less comforting. Between 2005 and 2010 there were 4 142 referrals of child abuse cases affecting 5 675 children. This disclosure was made by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Youth, Family and Sports, Irvine Best, while addressing a one-day national consultation on developing a mandatory reporting protocol for child abuse at Hilton Barbados.
Admitting that the true extent of child abuse and neglect was not completely known, Mr Best said: “This is indeed a significant number and should be of concern to all of us. What is more significant is that these statistics only represent ‘the tip of the iceberg’, since most abused and neglected children never come to the attention of government and other authorities.”
Earlier this month, while the global focus was on literacy and peace, the Nation newspaper carried a story: Father On Incest Charge. In that report, a 33-year-old father was charged with having sexual intercourse with his 12-year-old daughter between March 1 and June 30 this year.
Throughout my 38 years as an educator at both the primary and secondary levels, there were several worrisome instances of under-aged girls being impregnated by ‘big hard-back men’, often aided and abetted by their mothers.
The hands of the Child Care Board are often tied in that in many instances, no evidence is offered by either parent or victim. As a father of three daughters, I am concerned that in many instances not enough is being done to protect innocent girls who are robbed of their childhood by men and their sexual excesses. It is foolhardy for us to believe that it is only girls who are victims as this is far from the truth.
We all must do everything possible to protect our children, our brood. For us to fail in this regard is to become accomplices in what is virtually a crime against humanity.
• Matthew Farley is a secondary school principal, chairman of the National?Forum On Education, and a social commentator. Email [email protected]