Violence – a public health perspective

THE Prime Minister recently indicated that the interest of the national community might be better served if the scourge of violence is refocused in a national context, that affects all citizens.

This might prompt all sectors of the society to introspect; acknowledge their respective roles in the creation of the problem and thus take the necessary steps to play their parts in addressing it.

For too long, violence has been perceived as a school problem for schools and teachers to fix, despite pleas to the contrary from teachers over the years. Violence in schools has its genesis in homes and communities.

Schools have lamented that violent children are victims of circumstances; merely learning what they live; mimicking behaviours that characterise their environment.

The PM concurs with teachers that violence is everywhere.

From the affluent to the marginalised, extreme violent behaviours is the norm. To many children it is entertainment – behaviour to be emulated. Intolerance is now fashionable. Our young, impressionable minds are fed a constant diet of violence in all its horrific forms by the entertainment industry; a situation exacerbated by the rise of social media.

Schools were once blamed for propagating violence via the use of corporal punishment, hence its banning; a gross misdiagnosis by social scientists and political commentators if ever there was one.

School authorities have consistently made the link between violent behaviour by children and poor parenting.

The PM has quite rightly questioned the abdication of parenting and familial responsibilities in the upbringing of children. Unfortunately, when blame is not apportioned at the school door, the next quick-fix solution is more policing and then the ever-present opportunistic politicians see it as the government’s problem.

It’s always someone else’s problem to deal with.

We have created a vicious cycle of blame over the decades. Abdication of personal responsibility has resulted in the issue pervading almost every facet of society. Schools, the police and government alone cannot fill such social gaps.

In reframing the narrative, the PM made a clarion call for all citizens and institutions to introspect and recognise their roles in addressing the problem. The solution does not lie in any one sector of society, and it certainly will not be solved overnight.

From genocide to infanticide, anthropologists argue that humans have a predisposition to violence owing to our evolutionary history. What separates us from primates is our ability to rein in such base instincts.

Unfortunately, the entertainment industry, driven by naked greed have radically altered social structures that would have nurtured people away from survival instincts.

Their constant menu of verbal, emotional, and physical violence have created an insatiable appetite that translates into obscene financial rewards, oblivious to its self-destructing impact.

As TTUTA would have previously highlighted, the problem has been around for a long time and the root causes remain essentially the same.

From the school context, what is needed is concrete action and not more committees.

The minority of students who exhibit extreme violent behaviours and tendencies must be temporarily removed from traditional school structures and exposed to targeted programmes of behaviour modification. Whatever happened to the plan for out of school suspension and home-work centres?

Curriculum offering must be diversified to align with student realities that would bolster self-esteem and self-worth. Parents must be held more accountable for their children’s upbringing, notwithstanding their socioeconomic status.

Economic poverty cannot be used as a justification for deviant behaviour.

Citizens must understand that rights must be exercised in the context of responsibilities. Schools must be given resources commensurate with the social agenda. Underachieving children, who always inadvertently come from impoverished homes and communities, being lumped into certain school types as outcasts of an elitist education model, must stop.

High-stakes examinations promote a psyche of competition and marginalisation, dovetailing into the culture of selfishness that morphs into revenge/violence.

The capitalist economic model that has resulted in a widening socio-economic gap must be revised with a greater emphasis on empowerment, fairness, and social justice.

Programmes of national service must be given greater prominence to harness the abundant energies of youth who feel deprived of a sense of self-worth. Public health and national social issues must be free of political bias and gamesmanship.

The judicial system must be able to treat with crime and criminality in a more expeditious manner. And finally, school authorities must be given more support, resources, and autonomy to treat with a redefined mandate of social transformation.


"Violence – a public health perspective"

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