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Minister’s Child Month Speech 2014

Minister’s Child Month Speech 2014

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Fri May 9, 2014

Today, 1st May, I wish to speak to our children, and let me remind you as I always do, that according to the United Nations, a child is someone between the ages of 0 – 18 years. I want our parents and all those persons who in one way or another, impact the lives of our future generation, to pay attention.{{more}}

Every year during the month of May, we pause to recognize the importance of our nation’s children. This year, our theme, to my mind is quite appropriate:

“Tolerance Today for a Violence Free World Tomorrow” with the slogan “Let Peace Begin with Me”.

Some years ago, a song by a Barbadian artiste was playing incessantly on our air waves. The song began: “I woke up early this morning…to the sound of crying…another mother shedding her tears, oh Jah”. The song-writer asks two important questions: “Why all the senseless killings? How many more must die?” Unfortunately, this appears to be the direction in which this “Land of the Blessed- Our Hairouna” is heading. Violence seems to have become entrenched in our society and have pervaded our schools. How sad!

At the Ministry of Education, our aim is to ensure that all our schools are viewed as “Child-Friendly Schools” and our Ministry officials, principals and teachers have been working diligently to ensure that this trait characterises our schools’ environments. How can this occur if our children prefer to embrace a life of violence? Violence in any form is a threat to progress and development. Within the school environment, violence strangles the school climate and culture by disturbing the normal free flow of education and produces tension within the school’s population. Violent children serve as a roadblock for other children’s future. How can the other children concentrate on their studies in a school climate where fighting or violence is the order of the day?

It is a well-known fact, and based on many studies, that the school is a microcosm of our society. Simply put, whatever occurs within our communities and our society at large spills over into our schools. When a society becomes de-sensitized to death or killing, violence will increase. Many times when a fight erupts between two children, the onlookers egg them on, it becomes a side show and people look on with amusement and hilarity because they have something to talk and laugh about later. Some parents also encourage their children to retaliate instead of walking away from situations that may lead to violent acts. Another response that has become a usual occurrence is when a murder occurs. It appears that the easiest thing for our young people to do is to take a picture with their phones and send it around the world by posting it on Facebook. No thought is given to the pain and sorrow of the victim’s family. We have become insensitive to people’s pain. If a murder or fight do not affect us directly, then it is just as if we were watching a television show. Again, I say how sad! Is this what we want for our country? What has happened to our community spirit? When did we forget that it takes a village to raise a child and my neighbour’s pain is my own pain? There is no connection to others in our community, so we care less for their welfare. However, when we share common bonds of belief and value with others, we are less likely to be aggressive or violent to others in our community. Sadly, when people become isolated in their own little world without some connection to those around them, violence will increase.

It is my firm belief that we need to rethink our lifestyles and go back to the values that were used as the corner-stone of our people. One such value is that of tolerance. We live in an age where the electronic media has created what is now called a global village but we will never be able to enjoy the benefits of this new world order if mutual goodness, respect and understanding do not prevail. Without tolerance and harmony, the lasting peace within our society cannot be maintained. Lack of tolerance leads to fighting, violence, and finally it destroys the peace and security of society. Without tolerance there will be a lack of loyalty and commitment as well. All these are components of what describes a good citizen – this is what we try desperately to teach our children in our schools.

I humbly suggest to you that tolerance and contentment go together. We live in a very materialistic society where children are taught very early that the latest brand name clothes, shoes and phones are symbols of happiness. The question is – who encourages them to feel this way? It is time for us as parents to look at how we have socialized our children. What are the values that we teach them? Parents you need to examine whether you have contributed to the dissatisfaction and discontentment of young people that end with them turning to drugs. Is it that we as parents promote the “everything now” syndrome where some of our young people no longer look to education as the means of getting them out of poverty and turn instead to drugs? Drugs result in violence and a vicious cycle is created. This cycle however can be broken if we change our means of socialising our children and teach them to embrace tolerance and peace; rather than violence and aggression.

As we mark the beginning of yet another Child Month, I wish to appeal to parents, teachers, children and the country at large to embrace the words of the song, “Let peace begin with me.” Let’s work towards establishing a peaceful society where tolerance becomes our watchword once again. I wish to ask you, wherever you are, to give the person standing next to you the sign of peace.

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