In the face of the ever ominous global economic recession, an escalating crime rate, the GREAT, imperial IMF, and the sterling performances from our athletes in Berlin perhaps the children may be the last thing on our minds. And, perhaps they are not at all as important as the aforementioned. Especially since they are not menacing as crime is. But crime in this context is not a noun but and adjective. Let me hasten to engage.
Perhaps this might be a simplistic reasoning but when our children are left misguided and on the fringes of society, having no economic power, no inculcated values and no support system, they become susceptible to those who will exploit them and use them for criminal purposes. In her book How Children Become Violent (2008) Kathryn Seifert,PhD, explains that those who commit acts of violence today are likely to have witnessed violence as children or may have been abused or neglected. In echoing James Marcia's theory, she further opines that childhood is a time when attachment with caregivers (note not necessarily parents) stimulates, among others, the formation of behaviour regulation, interpersonal skills, moral development and problem solving skills. When this is interrupted, she says, disruptive attachment patterns (DAP) may result. This means that today's neglected, psychologically unbalanced and traumatised children are likely to become tomorrow's dangers to society - that is unless there are aggressive and adequate intervention strategies.
Let us consider these facts. The Office of the Children's Advocate (OCA) which is responsible for ensuring that the rights and best interest of children are observed currently has two Investigating Officers that must serve the entire island (These two officers are charged with the resposibility of investigating situations across the length and breadth of this country where children's rights have been infringed upon). Does this reality say that our government and policy makers are in any way, shape or form serious about matters concerning our children? Certainly, it looks wonderful on paper when we consider the responsibility of the OCA (and I am sure they are well-meaning people) but how can they seriously dispense of their duties when they are clearly under staffed?
Further, the police, with whom the umbrella association, OCA, is supposed to be working closely in following up on (the parents of) children who roam the streets have abdicated their responsibility. Anecdotal evidence will confirm this. Haven't we all noticed that the police going along their merry way, while children, who should be at school or at home at late hours, are wiping windscreens or selling or begging someone "a five dollar"? Since OCA reports directly to parliament, how come I don't hear mandates for police to pick up every child found roaming the streets, find his/her parents and hold them accountable? Are we politicising even the lives of our children?
Then we have the church who is busy to speak out against casino gambling (as if it really is a moral issue) and the viewing of the movie, Brokeback Mountain, in our nation's cinemas but silent about the plight of our children. The church seems to need wresting from its malaise. Where is the collective voice on real issues of concern? When a child can be abducted from a church building by armed men during a church function and the church did not publicly condemn the action neither have they collectively pledged support of law enforcers in protecting our children then it is fair to say that the church has lost its conscience along with its right to comment on any matter with regards to the state (perhaps a harsh statement but very much justifiable). That the sermons preached in our churches, hardly, are concerned with injustice and crimes against humanity (such as the plight of our children) is telling about the lack of awareness and concern that exists within the church for our society. What then is the purpose of the message of salvation? For years the church has been trying to get "saved", a society from which it is almost completely detached - what dissonance!
Every agent of socialisation, every individual, has a part to play. We cannot continue in this slumber or else together we shall fall into a ditch. We cannot continue to wind up our glasses and ignore those children who ply their trade on our streets. We cannot continue to allow the problem to fester by keeping them on the streets when we give them money either. This situation demands a social response that is remedial, yes, but it must also be proactive. So while we must report matters to the police/parliamentary representatives/CDA and the like (with the hope that they will do what they were commissioned to do), we must also have interventions that will reform the children's already psychologically unbalanced minds as well as social programmes (not necessarily government initiatives) that will prevent our children from seeing the streets as their only option.
As part of its strategies in transforming lives, RYE hosts an annual summer camp for the duration of one week in which children from five (5) to nineteen (19) years old are developed holistically. They are trained in craft making, social graces/etiquette, entrepreneurial skills and there are counselors to help get them through many of their emotional issues.
Perhaps the most crucial aspect of RYE's programme is its follow up component. As much and often as possible we try to stay in contact with and visit our youth. We have realised tremendous transformation. Many who would have otherwise become engaged have been supported in school (with regards to tuition and mentoring) and have returned to our camps as peer counselors and staff at our camps. However, we are only able to do so much and it is only because of our financial constraints. The sacrifice is worth it. The love for humanity and the state of our country compel us so to do.