It’s so easy blame our young citizens for all of society’s ills: the comatose economy; the death of our banana industry; our near counter-productive education system; inadequate health services; unemployment; white collar-crime. All responsibility is placed at the feet of youth, as if the real culprits—the failed politicians we elect over and over, every five years—had nothing to do with what is killing the country, including lack of opportunities for the youth who shoulder the popular blame.
The apologists are at their worst whenever young people are suspected of criminality. Suddenly the Old Testament becomes required reading, with the holier than thou appealing to the sacrosanct government to hang ‘em high. Pan yo.
Case in point: the recent stabbing of a 15-year-old girl in the eye and lungs by an 18- year-old male Pavee resident, by most media reports a crime that “sent shock waves throughout the society.”
The victim, with whom the accused had a “special relationship,” is fighting for her life at the hospital. On Tuesday, the accused made his first appearance in court, charged with attempted murder. As usual, obviously unemployed curious citizens gathered outside the courthouse.
The accused was granted bail in the sum of $6500 and ordered to report every Wednesday to the police between 7am and 7pm. He was also directed to surrender his ID card, since he did not have a passport. Police also requested that he stay at least one hundred metres from the 15-year-old.
The case has been adjourned until July 17. By reliable account the accused and his alleged victim had once attended the same school. He had recently been working as a security guard but he showed signs that suggested he was troubled. Alas, it would take the stabbing incident to bring out such information.
Last week, another four teenagers from the depressed Bruceville community in Vieux Fort made another court appearance, on charges they murdered the British national Roger Pratt on his yacht, at the time docked at Vieux Fort. Once again, the matter has been adjourned.
Meanwhile, the four suspects, as well as the earlier mentioned 18-year-old, are at the woefully overcrowded Bordelais Correctional Facility. The prison that was built to house around 400 inmates is now home to a population of 625, 75 of whom are juveniles.
A survey conducted ten years ago on adolescents in the Caribbean revealed that most respondents saw themselves as generally happy. However 1 in 6 saw themselves as sad, angry or irritable. Half had felt so “down” that they wondered if anything was worthwhile. One in six felt their friends cared very little about them.
Many of the young people surveyed reported a history of abuse in their lives. About a sixth (15.9%) stated they had been physically abused, most by an adult in their home, and 1 in 10 stated they worried about being physically abused. One-tenth reported sexual abuse, most frequently by adults outside of the home or other teens, but many reported abuse by adults in the home and by siblings.
The cross-sectional study represented a collaborative effort of the ministries of health in nine countries, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), and the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre in Adolescent Health at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. Of the 19 Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) countries, the following joined the regional survey: Antigua, Bahamas, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, and St. Lucia.
Together these nations represent 71% of the population and half of all countries in the Anglophone Caribbean. Sadly the situation has not changed much in the last ten years. If anything it has worsened, with governments doing precious little to address the problems of the so-called leaders of tomorrow. A few have even failed to ratify some of the UN and other conventions on the rights of children and the youth.
The recent announcement of the closure of the Vieux Fort Technical School will, I daresay help to worsen the plight of Saint Lucian youth, particularly in the more depressed southern communities. With unemployment at an all-time high and rising, their bellies growling, our young people grow sadder and angrier by the minute.
Meanwhile our politicians have their own priorities that involved mainly themselves. Perhaps that’s why so many of our citizens seem content to hang around outside the Castries courthouse, drawn there by the latest occurrence to send “shockwaves through the community.”