The classroom can be used to help children cultivate compassion and respect
It is with dread and consternation that I keep accessing Syeada Manbodh’s Facebook page. Syeada is the selfless, relentless advocate and rescuer of the suffering animals on the streets of Georgetown and its environs. The photos she posts on her page are heart wrenching and distressing, but I must keep looking, for it brings me face to face with reality – a reality that she lives with every day. In its own stark, cruel way it brings me some comfort because it means that Syeada has relieved another suffering animal’s anguish. It means that there will be less unwanted pups being born into this world of neglect and disregard. It means that some innocent creature will find a loving home. It means there is some hope in a world so filled with violence and cruelty against man and animal.
Reflecting on the recent horrendous killing of the beautiful four-year-old child in Linden makes me contemplate the heinous, constant violence perpetrated by humans against animals, and Guyana has its fair share of that. How can we even begin to address this abject violence in our culture? Maybe a good place to start is in the classroom helping the children cultivate compassion and respect for animals and maybe that would help translate into compassion for fellow humans. Now, I am not under the delusion that the classroom can change every human behaviour. As a friend of mine so rightly said, there is so often an incompatibility between exposure at home and in school. However, this battle for integrity must be waged somewhere and I say the classroom must be that ongoing front to even hope to make some progress on how young humans develop morally.
My concern is this culture of neglect that seems to pervade Guyanese society. Animals roam the streets, discarded, tormented, abused, wasting away, dying slowly and miserably, all before our eyes, and worst of all, before our children’s eyes. I believe this helps with the desensitization and dehumanization that creep insidiously into society and perhaps contribute to the horrible violence as depicted in the recent savagery in Linden. “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated,” so says Gandhi. We will never have a utopian world free of violence, but we can at least help chip away at something that is harmful to the human soul.