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EDITORIAL: Don’t give up on children

Barbados Nation

EDITORIAL: Don’t give up on children

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SHORT OF A child strapping on a suicide vest and calling himself a terrorist, or taking a loaded firearm into a school or some other public place with the expressed purpose of killing others, how many offences can there be that would force a principal, parent or society to give up on him or her?

In many ways the question does not require an answer – but we believe it makes an important point. Too many of our parents, or persons who accept a paid role in which they are expected to behave like parents, are failing the children who have been entrusted to their care.

It is for this reason that we offer our wholehearted support to the principal of the Government Industrial School Erwin Leacock and Acting Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith. The two made a most important point in relation to this issue as they addressed separate primary school graduations this week.

Mr Leacock, who has so far had a distinguished career working to give many of the youth on whom society had generally given up a second chance, told parents and students attending the Half Moon Fort Primary School graduation on Wednesday, in essence that he could not accept instances where children have been expelled from school in the first term of their first year at school.

Arising from that scenario we can’t help but ask what infraction or pattern of behaviour an 11- or 12-year-old could possibly have exhibited to warrant such a reaction. And perhaps more pointedly for the rest of the society, what kind of hardcore deviance are we condemning such individuals to?

Then yesterday, while addressing students of the Selah Primary School, Mr Griffith said: “I have a difficulty with us not being able to manage 12-year-olds. We cannot abandon these young persons.”

The commissioner must have heard some of those who are quick to call their pre-teens unmanageable, or those teachers who want nothing to do with children so young because they are supposedly too disruptive, or adults in a community who are not ashamed to place unflattering labels on children around them who have not even reached puberty.

Mr Griffith referred to a 12-year-old first former who was suspended from school and wandered the streets, to the surprise of his parents. It took the observant eye of a policeman to recognise his status and to intervene.

“What we have observed at the secondary school level is a tendency for students to be suspended from school for periods, and it is clear that parents are not aware that their children are suspended, as the children leave for school as usual during the period of suspension,” Mr Griffith said.

“Those students end up in very undesirable environments and are exploited by older persons.”

We do not wish to appear to be placing an unreasonable burden on the shoulders of principals and teachers, but their contribution to the rearing of children is so integral to achieving success that the society cannot ignore gaps or failings. Maybe there is a need for more counselling/mentoring personnel in our schools to work along the teachers – but as Messrs Griffith and Leacock have stated so clearly, giving up on our young people, even if they are “hard ears” is not a viable or sensible option.

They will come back to haunt a lot more than those who did not have time for them when they needed the attention most.