Monday, April 22, 2024

Too many children going astray

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A matter of the greatest concern has been raised in recent times about the law as it relates to some deviant children. The reference is to the issue of wandering which, as we have recently heard, is an offence which can only be committed by children between the ages of 11 and 15.
It is therefore a matter of the highest importance because if children of such tender years are wandering, then something has gone wrong within the family, and one parent or the other has fallen down on his or her obligations. The child finds itself ultimately exposed to the application of the criminal law when everything else fails.
Barbados is indeed fortunate to have people of the calibre of the learned Attorney General, Magistrate Barbara Cooke-Alleyne and former Magistrate Faith Marshall-Harris, all of whom have expressed concern about an issue that must touch the core of every responsible parent.
Between the ages of 11 and 15, exposure to the world of secondary education and to science and the arts ought to be the exciting stuff that allows a child to sense whether it will tread the path of the businessman; or even spend usefully creative time studying the mechanics of the internal combustion engine or the computer.
Instead, if we are to understand the figures properly, in the past four years as many as 55 children were charged with wandering. This is a higher figure than of those charged with drug possession, rape, burglary, theft from the person or robbery.
What makes this a major problem is that the “offence” was more prevalent among girls than boys, and this fact alone may speak to matters taking place within the home, which should attract the attention of the criminal law, but very often do not. It seems too that many of the girls, having been caught by the premature exposure to sex, find it difficult to get back on the straight and narrow path.
Many young lives may therefore be ruined by the introduction to them of matters better postponed for later years. The law needs to deal firmly with those adults who, for their selfish ends, may inflict such sexual abuse upon these impressionable youngsters, whose emotions make them candidates for sexual predators.
The encouraging thing is that some of these youngsters, even when facing the ultimate punishment of commital to the Government Industrial School for the statutory minimum period of three years, manage to graduate from these difficulties and benefit from higher secondary and tertiary level education and go on to enjoy successful lives.
Yet even though this is encouraging, we feel that further investigation needs to be done on the problem since abused young women may be faced with Hobson’s choice of accepting the evil of the abuse; or wandering away from home and the abuse and ending up in the arms of the law.
And if it is true that most of the boys who wander do so to avoid school since they may feel embarrassed to be there, then that too is a problem that can be dealt with if spotted early enough, allowing us to save some of our young people from themselves.

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