HAS your child been in a fight at school in the past 30 days?
According to a survey of Bahamian students, around one in five children have been – do the parents of those one in five know?
The study illustrates how commonplace violence is in our schools – 260 of the 1500 young people surveyed said they had been in a fight at school in the past month. That’s not even counting fights off the school grounds.
While this should be shocking to us all, we’re not entirely sure even how surprising this is. When we see how common violence is in our society at large – as seen in the number of murders we experience in society, the number of robberies and assaults – is it any surprise that it is reflected among the young people who learn from the adults around them?
National Security Minister Marvin Dames, in response to the figures, talked of wanting students – as future leaders of the country – to be agents of change.
That’s all very well, but we might expect the current leaders to be agents of change too. Why must students wait until they have a chance to be in charge before things improve?
There was talk as the results were revealed about – and, take a deep breath here - “healthy relationships curriculum aid” with mention of evidence-based strategies and tactics to support non-violent conflict resolution and non-violent behaviours. Does that sound like a lot of big words with not a lot of detail to you? Yes, it does to us too. We imagine it probably does to the children affected by school violence as well.
So what does that mean? Where does the child affected by violence turn in order to resolve a situation without resorting to raising their fists – or worse, a weapon – themselves? What is being done to spot the child that could start the fight early on and steer them onto a better path? In plain terms, please, not an evidence-based strategy. Who does a child turn to?
And a further question for Mr Dames – where are the police officers around schools? Does the survey help to identify which schools have a greater amount of violence so that officers can be better deployed – even within the school precincts where necessary?
Let’s not just put it on the next generation to sort the problem out, let’s do all we can to help them deal with it right now – or we don’t really deserve to call ourselves leaders in the first place.
Because if we don’t give a child someone to turn to, the survey revealed another detail –that 63 percent of young people felt there was justification for someone to hit a child or hurt a child who misbehaved. Meanwhile, 39 percent felt there was justification for a man hitting his wife, girlfriend or partner if she made him upset. Where did they learn that from? From our generation. From the parents and family members and friends they grow up around.
Minister, it’s not the next generation who need to be agents of change. We need to be.
Recovery effort falling short
There is very much a difference of opinion when it comes to the speed of recovery efforts in Abaco.
Yesterday, the chairman of the Disaster Reconstruction Authority, John-Michael Clarke, defended the pace of work there, saying officials felt certain progress was being made.
Elsewhere, people on the island have expressed disappointment with the process? Who is right? Well, let’s take a look at one element – the dome city being put up to house refugees.
Some residents have called the domes a waste of money. Mr Clarke, meanwhile, says that 32 of the domes will be available to residents near the end of this month. The trouble is, we’ve heard this promise of domes coming soon for a while. Mr Clarke was saying some of the domes would be completed as far back as early December. Then many of the domes hadn’t even arrived in Abaco and were only expected by the end of January.
So when we hear talk of how everything is making progress, it’s no surprise that we look back on deadlines that seem to have slipped back. By now, shelters have closed their doors so the people who were in them have found other places to be – are the domes even in demand any more?
Mr Clarke spent part of yesterday calling on people who need a temporary dome to let the authority know – shouldn’t they know already? Shouldn’t they know everyone by name on Abaco and what their needs are by now? How are they still asking what people need more than five months on from Hurricane Dorian?
Mr Clarke talks of having “actually begun the process of getting permission of removing debris. We’ve already started that process a couple weeks ago”. A couple of weeks?
So we feel it is unsurprising that people feel a lack of progress is being made – and as long as people think that way, then it shows that the government presence isn’t being made to be felt.
These are our brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends. The whole world reached out to them in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Dorian. They shouldn’t feel those closer to home are reaching out to them any less.
If officials think enough effort is being made, it seems that’s still falling short. Time to redouble those efforts.