Parents, teachers must reflect on how they are addressing the needs of children

Dear Editor,

It is now over two weeks since the shooting at my house. A great deal of coverage has been given in the media, both in Guyana and overseas. Much has been written, sadly, not all of it accurate.

The time now is for sober reflection. Many are no doubt weary of the story, but surely none of us can be complacent concerning the action and the way forward.  Those actions of a fortnight ago affect us all.  If we wish to remain passive spectators nothing will have been learnt. 

As a community we need to consider many things. Still speculation governs much of the discussion but there is no doubt that social media played a very ugly part. We live in a new age where our youth in particular escape into private dark worlds where their reality is the screen in front of them and the ‘game’ they are engrossed in becomes their reality. We never produced youth before under such conditions. It is an isolated, complicated world that now engulfs our youth. As parents are we aware of what are children are doing hours on end glued to their computer screens. This is surely parental not teacher responsibility.

As parents do we know who are the friends of our children? Do we spend time with them or is our concern diverted into material gifts?  Do we understand the pressures that our children and youth are under, challenges that we never had to face at their ages?

As educators, in our blind focus on ‘academic’ success, are we sensitive to the child who is alone, isolated and mistrustful?  Do we have time for them?  Do we encourage other children to reach out to them and offer love and support to those who may be difficult to even like or tolerate? Do we appreciate the value of a balanced education, one that balances moral education with the pursuit of grades and numbers.

As a nation what do we offer our youth in terms of sports, clubs, drama and art? If the only option for our youth is alcohol and music with violent lyrics then how can we be surprised if they are alienated, angry, depressed and friendless?

As always, it is easier to ask questions than give solutions, to criticise rather than explore solutions. There are no magic answers but honest reflection is surely the crucial first step.  At Nations, for the past few years, we have explored a junior youth programme that aims at personal and community transformation. It prepares older youth to play a role as mentors to younger children. The printed material that they study is complimented by exploring how art, music, drama and sport can be used in the process. Each Saturday at Nations a group of the 6th formers works with children aged 11 to 14 years exploring the social issues they are surrounded by and offering a path of action. It gives the 6th formers a mentoring role that brings them self-respect and a sense of taking action and not being a paralysed spectator.  Nobody pretends that this is the solution but it is surely a beginning that had relevance before the actions of two weeks ago and will have meaning long after we address new challenges.

Whatever response we choose to make the role of disinterested spectator is of no value and simply feeds the perverse desires of those who wish to create havoc, fear and despair.  We need to understand that we create the future.

Yours faithfully,

Dr. Brian O’Toole

Director

School of the Nations

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