EDITORIAL: Curbing missing teen trend
AMONG THE MANY pressing considerations of any government at anytime must be the plight of the vulnerable groups within the society.
Depending on the demographic profile of the society and the attendant social problems, varying sections may qualify as vulnerable, but in any case the differently able, children and the aged usually qualify for inclusion.
In times of recession and austerity programmes, ministers may become taken up with economic matters as they seek to bring its economy and issues such as its fiscal deficit under control. Sometimes preoccupation with economic issues may cause the problems of the vulnerable in the society to not get the urgent attention which such problems merit.
The present Government must therefore be commended for finding time to consider and highlight for action the social issue of wandering schoolgirls and the problems which the disabled are experiencing in accessing designated parking areas.
Since we consider the differently abled, children and the aged as special groups, the perennial problem of teenage schoolgirls who are found to have wandered is one which has to be addressed without further delay. These unfortunate young persons may not realise that they are running foul of the laws when they take the risky step of running away from and leaving their homes and residing elsewhere.
Last week, Minister of Education Ronald Jones revealed that he had discussed with Attorney General the setting up of a ministerial committee to bring together and to work with Government agencies to try to reverse this trend. The minister was commenting on a recent incident in which five girls from a rural school went missing at the same time and were later found in the same location. The issue needs to be examined. As the minister said pointedly: “these girls may be missing to us . . . but somebody else knows where they are”.
Wandering by girls is not a new problem. It is a major social problem which always has to be handled with sensitivity and discretion. Faith Marshall-Harris, a UNICEF Champion for Children, disclosed that when she was a magistrate a large number of young girls wandered, but that the police using their discretion often looked for the missing teenagers and returned them home, without bringing a case for the attention of the court. Marshall-Harris welcomed the Minister’s suggestion as “a great idea”, and urged “let’s do it”.
We find ourselves in agreement with Marshall-Harris and the minister.
The consequences of a finding by the court that the teenager has wandered may lead to a loss of freedom which may be seen by some as tough result, but still some of these young people must be saved from themselves or, in other cases, from whatever may have triggered their situation.
The Disabled Group also handed Prime Minister Freundel Stuart a petition with over 12 000 signatures requesting changes in the Road Traffic Act to make it illegal for able bodied persons to park in areas designated for disabled people. This, too, is a matter deserving urgent attention; and it is refreshing that group members were able to smile as the Prime Minister assured them that their requested changes were already in train and would shortly be taken to Parliament.