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Suffering children – are we for real?

Depressed Kid

by Vernon Khelawan

Years ago, we were disciplined by a few strokes on the hand with a leather strap and sometimes on other parts of the anatomy. And although some parents (guardians) took the licks a little too far, it was the discipline we knew. If we did wrong, we were subject to correction. This was not called abuse in the general sense.

Fast forward to the present and what is used today as disciplinary measures are not what we knew. The legislation has changed and now you can’t even get strokes in school because it is against the law. Today, parents and teachers can talk themselves hoarse. Suasion and patience is what we must have when dealing with children.

Disciplining is one thing but we have had to establish a Children’s Authority to look after the welfare of children who are abused. The sufferings today’s children must endure have forced the Authority’s Chairman Hanif Benjamin to ask, “What is wrong with Trinidad and Tobago?” Maybe you are asking the same question.

He disclosed that since the Authority was established less than three years ago, it has had to investigate more than 13,500 cases of crimes committed against the nation’s children and some 55,000 distress calls coming from people seeking some sort of protection for children.

In the majority of instances, I blame poor parenting. And this is something I have said repeatedly. There are, in this country, children having children which must lead to dereliction of parenting skills. What does a 13-year-old know about bringing up a child correctly? She is supposed to be in Form One or Two learning about life skills. That child, without proper parenting, now has to become a parent herself. Are we for real?

But that is not the only reason we have untrained youngsters. Many times, there’s the economic status; the housing considerations; schooling and most of all children being shown real love.

Benjamin speaking recently at St Paul’s Anglican Church, San Fernando said, “You see somewhere along the line, man has lost his way and our children who are the most vulnerable among us, are treated like they don’t exist. We treat them as though they are nothing. We treat them as if they are second-, third- or fourth-class humans.”

He said there were so many troubling cases that come to the Authority’s attention regularly and he gave two examples. There was a 13-year-old girl who eventually turned to social media to publicise her plight. Her mother had forced her into a life of prostitution. We are still to know to what purpose(s) those illicit funds were used. He spoke also of a child who was neglected, abused and kept in a cage.

Today’s child is exposed to many more influences than older generations and as such must be treated differently. Years ago, we had parents and the extended family who cared and loved their children, teachers who did not work only for a salary, and the Church and its various organisations, all working assiduously towards making the children better.

Nowadays parents are much younger and without parenting skills; the village doesn’t raise the child anymore; and the young parents are annoyed if you correct their child.

Let’s hope that Mr Benjamin and the Children’s Authority can bring some sanity to a child’s world that is nothing but tumultuous.