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THE ‘NETTE EFFECT: Story of a lost ‘brother’


ANTOINETTE CONNELL, [email protected]

THE ‘NETTE EFFECT: Story of a lost ‘brother’

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A WHILE BACK – though it doesn’t quite feel so – when my daughter was still at primary school, she reported to me that there was a certain boy who teased her.

Sometimes she would come home and recount how he had teased her and that she did not know why he did it. It wasn’t the brutish kind but it was incessant and enough to bother her.

She would tell me the extent of the teasing, which was not always restricted to her, but she got the brunt of it. I was annoyed and at the same time puzzled that she had become the target of this particular behaviour.

At first I was not worried that it would affect her work or change her personality as I had seen and read. However, I did not want the matter to spiral out of control and thought and prayed about the best way to handle it.

I was quite familiar with all the children in her class since I made it a point to drop in at school from time to time to check on her, even before the problem started. The school being so close to my workplace meant that if she forgot something, I could easily take it to her or, if she needed lunch, drop it off, so I was a regular.

I knew the child who was giving her a tough time.

One day while at the school I saw him and called him over. He approached unafraid, as by now he was quite accustomed to “Ya Ya Mummy”. I asked him if he was teasing Ya Ya. He didn’t answer but the look on his face was a confession. Looking down at his innocent face, I couldn’t be upset.

Shrugged shoulders

I asked him why he was teasing her. He shrugged his shoulders and muttered that he did not know why he teased her.

Understand that if this was about two years ago, I would not have had the conversation with the child. Today, people are a lot more offended by some approaches and mine was only to find out what was the thinking of the child.

As the youngster and I continued our talk, I told him that boys were not supposed to tease girls. If I was politically correct, I would have told him that girls were not supposed to tease boys either. Anyhow, he agreed that he should not be teasing girls.

Then I found out that at the time he did not have a sister and so I told him that Ya Ya did not have a brother. I asked him if he could be her brother and to that he nodded his head vigorously.

I gave him the task of being her brother and promised him that she would be his sister. From that day I had no trouble with that child. In fact, he was such a good brother to Ya Ya that he would bring her snacks or buy her little things at school.

One day I stopped by during lunchtime to find out what Ya Ya was up to and she presented me with a shiny silver dollar or a quarter – I forgot which one. She said that her brother had given her. Bless him.

Until the day they graduated and went their separate ways to secondary school, he and Ya Ya were friends.

Sounded familiar

Then one day I heard a name that sounded familiar but I dismissed it because I couldn’t rightly place it. The puzzling circumstances under which the name was mentioned made me put it from my mind.

Then I saw the picture on the notorious court page and I knew I could no longer deny it. I was jolted. There was Ya Ya’s primary school brother facing the ultimate charge. Ya Ya and I spent some time trying to get over the shock of what went wrong.

There were questions about whether people are fated by their environment. The community and the schools (primary and secondary) with which the young men in question had been associated all carried an awful reputation.

But she, like half the children in her class, attended the same primary school and dwelt in the neighbouring community. The one stark difference was the secondary schools they attended, which had two opposite reputations. Could it be that? Could that have put one child on a path to life and the other on a path that could ultimately end his life?

What went wrong?

• Antoinette Connell is a News Editor. Email [email protected]

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