Children crying out

It is quite understandable why adults today so easily dismiss children and the issues of childhood. In too many instances, today’s parents have had childhood experiences that often offer little comparison with what today’s children live through.

In fact, it is not uncommon when a child starts to display certain types of anti-social behaviour to have the symptoms dismissed with some simplistic statement like: “I don’t understand what her problems is! He ain’t got no mortgage to pay!” Or: “What she bothered ’bout? She does have to look for rent money?”

The essence of the point the adult is invariably trying to make is that since young people don’t encounter the problems of adulthood they should really be stress-free. Unfortunately, those who deal with children in a professional capacity, especially away from the home environment, know otherwise.

As a matter of fact, we are reasonably sure that if a lot of the adults today had the opportunity to relive their childhood in today’s environment they would decline the offer. Childhood is not what it used to be. We daresay that in too many cases it is not nearly what it should be.

We feel compelled to comment on this situation, and to help bring wider community awareness to the situation, in light of some of the points made by professional support officers in the school system when Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Senator Harry Husbands, toured the St. George Secondary School Summer School programme yesterday.

Counsellors Kim Bryan and Latisha Bourne, who are assisting the children with getting past some of the social challenges that impact their capacity and desire to learn, commented on the level of drug abuse, physical abuse, peer pressure, bereavement etc with which they are confronted.

Bourne spoke of dealing with large numbers of children forced to cope with “siblings who have died, parents who abuse drugs, home situations, living social issues such as housing, electricity, some children don’t have any electricity, water, sexual abuse. We have lots of children who have lots of bereavement in their family. I met a girl who had nine.”

Senator Husbands, a former teacher, supported the experts: “Generally speaking our society is more complicated than when I attended primary school… Our students need the counselling support, issues of drugs, issues of HIV/AIDS, the other social issues they have to battle with every day before they come into the classroom, so this kind of support is absolutely necessary.

“I would like to see a situation where each of our schools has a nurse employed at the school…, but life is a lot more complicated and our children need that kind of support.”

The world in which our children are growing up is indeed complex and they are forced to fight battles with a level of intensity many who came before them never experienced. And they are being forced to do so without the kinds of family support systems that Barbadians of an era past took for granted.

Granny is no longer a 60 or 70 year old matriarch of the community with enough experience to offer advice on just about any situation that might arise. In fact, today’s granny can find herself fighting the same “devils” as her grand child.

That’s why we support the call for the deployment of more trained counsellors in the schools, starting at the primary level. Yes, we understand that there is a cost attached and that the country is facing strained financial resources, but by now we should be aware that when our children turn into deviant or criminal adults there is a much higher tab the state has to pick up, whether or not it has budgeted for it.

We really are at the point nationally where the adage “a stitch in time saves nine” makes practical sense like never before. We need to recognise that when our little children are so often angry, violent, verbally abusive, prone to bullying etc, very often they are crying out for intervention. Providing them with the services they require now may save us all from major grief later.

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