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Cries of babes and sucklings

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Fri, Jul 19, 2011

Editor: Obviously, the junior calypsonians had adult help in producing their songs for the 2011 competition. The pathos which accompanied the delivery of the songs was quite amazing. The youngsters owned the material, internalized the concepts and delivered the message in a manner like any seasoned campaigner.{{more}} I made two observations from this junior calypso experience. The first observation was that there are great songwriters in our country, who are capable of producing good materials for our premier cultural festival. These composers should be encouraged to make their services available to any persons who have the ability to sing and who wish to be assisted in producing their own compositions.

The second and most critical observation is the clarion call by these young artistes for more attention to be given to the nation’s children. The Government has taken the decision to sign on to a series of conventions, which deals with the rights and protection of children. The two institutions which deal with issues relating to the welfare of our children are the Social Services Department (SSD) and the Family Courts (FC). These institutions must be commended for the work they have been doing, but much more needs to be done. Our society is constantly evolving. As it metamorphoses, numerous social ills of various types will continue to impact the lives of our children in a negative manner. Parents and prospective parents must give serious consideration to the issue of parenting.

The family planning services in the Ministry of Health must be commended for their efforts in providing public sensitizing programs targeting our youths. However, the most critical social issue which contributes to the worst of our children is teenage pregnancy. The issue of teenage pregnancy introduces a new subgroup within our population, labeled conveniently as the “vulnerable and orphans.” This group of children for the most part has been labeled as such, since they are often deprived of parents through delinquency, crimes, drugs and even death. When parents are not present to fulfill their parental duties, children are exposed to the ravages of a cruel dysfunctional society.

Some children, who are caught up in this vicious circle, adapt quickly to the prevailing circumstances within which they live. Some become bread winners for their families at an early age, employed by drug dealers as couriers to ensure the survival of the drug trade. This unfortunate situation gives rise to other “psychosocial byproducts,” “begging street children’s” (BSC) juvenile delinquency (JD) and the undercover Child Pornography Industry (UCPI). Recently, I heard of a twelve-year-old girl from a rural community, who is pregnant for a man more than twice her age. Without proper intervention, this young mother could miss out on education and a chance to realize her own personal ambitions. It is reported that the alleged father of the unborn has since fled the country.

One may say, well, that’s not anything new or unusual, it happens all the time. I hear you, but that does not make it acceptable! That does not make it right! There can be no reasonable justification to this unconscionable act. It is a heinous crime against our upcoming generation. We must never, as a society allow this and other evil acts against our children to become acceptable cultural practices. This is an issue that we must protest against. The fact that this issue was highlighted by our children makes it a good time to initiate a national conversation engaging all stakeholders.

The call of our young Calypsonians reflects the sentiments of many children in our country. We have heard this call for help before. Now is the time to act. I therefore call on all Faith-Based Organizations (FBO), civil society Organizations (CSOs) and other Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to speak firmly and act decisively on behalf of our children. We must speak with one voice to condemn, in the strongest terms, all forms of crimes against our children. Special effort must be made to block loopholes in existing laws, thus making it easier for offenders of our children to feel the full effects of the law. I am aware that there are certain problems that are endemic to the work of the Family Court and the Social Services Department. The perennial problem of “out-of-court settlements” continues to pose a challenge to Police Officers and case workers who wish to execute their duties. When adults receive monetary compensation an abused, traumatized child is denied justice.

In closing, I wish to offer a few recommendations: (1) revise the laws to bring them in line with current criminal activities. (2) Make it a criminal offence for any adult to accept gifts, monetary or otherwise, in exchange for the dissolution of a criminal matter against a child molester. (3)That these two departments work closely with the District Health Centers (DHC) and Pediatric department of the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital (PDMCMH), to identify cases of child abuse and deal with them in an expeditious manner. Finally, make it a criminal offence punishable by law for parents, guardians or any adult to conceal cases of child abuse. What was covered by the unconscionable and unscrupulous is now revealed by the “babes and sucklings”; let’s listen attentively. The Bible indicates that “Children are a heritage of the Lord.” Let’s act now to protect and care for God’s heritage.

Samuel Joyles

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