Violence among schoolchildren

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THE EDITOR: I’ve seen some videos. The beatings are brutal and I’m flabbergasted.

A child is pushed to the ground, made helpless and you see not one, not two, but several children taking turns punching and kicking the defenceless victim. It’s a scene played over and over on our newscasts these past few weeks. Not surprisingly, there’s a visceral reaction from within the community but equally of concern is the response from some who should know better; a response calling for violence in kind to the perpetrators of these heinous acts. This coming from some whose comments are not without a hint of animus.

There’s something else I’ve seen in the videos. A few brave youths attempting to intervene, albeit to no avail, as they are overwhelmed by the violent mob. Or a lone voice calling for the violence to cease. It’s often, but not always, a girl’s voice. Therein lies some hope in this otherwise disastrous scenario.

But it is the brutality, the rage, that stands out.

Where is all this rage coming from? Is there something specific in our society that’s fuelling this anger?

Citizens are naturally horrified and knee-jerk reactions abound. There’s talk about children from single-parent homes and lots of views about “those” people who won’t train their children well…

Mind you, many of these folks are better at pointing fingers than at working to find solutions that won’t contribute further to the lack of self-worth among our troubled youth.

It’s easy to understand the knee-jerk reactions to the violence but we need to be thoughtful, as well. Should these acts of violence be condemned? Absolutely. Should the perpetrators be punished? Of course, to the fullest extent of the law. These youths must know that actions have consequences.

But we will be doing ourselves a disservice as a country if we don't go beyond the "hang dem high in a public square" solutions. And for heavens sake, let's stop putting blame on single-parent families. The world is full of mass shooters and psychopaths who come from two-parent homes.

Shouldn't we be asking why the promise of a future is so meaningless to these violent youths? What makes a segment of our society turn beastly; lacking empathy, compassion?

Is it that two pandemic years at home have left some of our schoolchildren confused and unable to distinguish between video games and real life? Is it that the violence-filled “entertainment,” often the only type of entertainment they are exposed to in our cinemas and elsewhere, has dulled their senses?

And what about our own behaviour as adults? How much of the bad behaviour may be influenced by examples set by adults in our society? What about overly hostile parliamentarians, political aspirants and other prominent voices in the community; people who shout and threaten rather than make their case by reasoned arguments?

So much air time is given to the “or else” folks. “Gie we wah we want, or else.” In far too many cases these are leading voices in the community who project violence in their tone, seemingly unaware of the example they’re setting.

This is a time for introspection. To what extent are the youths emulating behaviour patterns copied from the actions of people who should know better? Could it be that we have failed them to such a degree that they value nothing, not even life, not even themselves? Life can be meaningless when you feel you are not seen, when you can claim nothing to be yours.

When I started this letter, one young man was fighting for his life after the most recent incidence of after-school violence. Before I reached the end, there were reports that he might not have made it.

Young people who failed to see that they have a stake in the future now face a future of life in prison.

It’s not their problem alone. As a society with so much promise, it’s our problem. Collectively. This situation calls for more than old talk about values. Those of us who care must by example do everything in our power to make all our youth feel worthy.

The least we can do is make an effort to restore a sense of self-worth among our lost youth. I’m sure that those who care could think of numerous ways to do this. Our society needs a healing, there’s work to be done. I’m in. Are you?


St James


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