Startling abdication

Prime Minister Dr Rowley - ROGER JACOB
Prime Minister Dr Rowley - ROGER JACOB

WHAT LITTLE is known of the life of 15-year-old Zion Oculien suggests it was as fraught as it was brief.

The body of the boy was found in an abandoned building in Wallerfield on Thursday. Investigators say the child was shot repeatedly. Spent shells littered the scene, each a reminder of how little his life was valued.

It was the ending of a story that could have gone differently.

The teenager had attended the Sangre Grande Secondary School, but reached only form one. Relatives say he dropped out because of financial challenges. They say he tried to support himself by working at a poultry depot. They say he had plans to resume his studies.

In the wake of the gruesome killing, there has been speculation of a link to a string of incidents tied to people from the area. Relatives have declined to say why anyone would want to kill the teenager.

Whatever is behind this, another life has been lost, too soon to account fully for any deeds and too early to make good on its promise. And the murder toll continued to rise, well on the way to another record-breaking year.

This case, even with its seeming nuances, embodies the fact that when it comes to the way state agencies deal with the issues affecting the welfare of children, there needs to be an approach that is as compassionate as it is robust.

The tone of the Prime Minister’s remarks about the secondary school system, delivered at a swanky political party event held at Hilton Trinidad on Wednesday, was an ill fit in an environment where the challenges facing young people seem more daunting than ever.

“Life in the 21st century is not an easy thing,” Dr Rowley said at the start of his remarks. What followed was not an accounting of the complexities of this reality.

Instead, the PM focused on individual responsibility. A small band of criminals is holding the country hostage, he suggested. And some secondary school students are not making use of the system. There is “a significant amount of waste.”

It was a skewed approach that effectively condemned an entire generation of minors to being the Caananites of Genesis 9: lost to the curse of Ham.

It was a triumph of the will of the child over determinism or the doctrine that all action is decided by external causes.

That individual failures come in the context of history and an imbalanced economy was not apparent.

Such a pitch jarred with efforts to fix and relocate care homes, to bring child abusers to justice and to address the impact of crime on minors caught up, sometimes under great duress, in the net of gang and gun crime. It was a startling abdication.


"Startling abdication"

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