The bridge to the future: The journey continues
FR. SEBASTIAN CAMPBELL
Published: Aug 01, 2013
During this time, there is a lot of ongoing discussion about suspended students in our schools. It is alleged that many are suspended for frivolous reasons. But, there is the need to examine the social conditions of our children before coming down on them to the extent of kicking them out. Many of our children are victims to whom life has dealt unfair and unjustifiable blows. Some of them are traumatized because a father is in prison or some close relative was a recent murder victim. Many live in slums and shantytowns, never experiencing the minimum basic necessities of life the privileged few take for granted. A vast majority are economically deprived. Where is the school feeding program to bail some of them out? Some, all too often, are from broken homes, they know not love and balance from a God-intended two-parent family. They are battered by family battles, quarrels and experiences too dehumanizing to record.
We have set no moral code for teachers and support staff in our schools or any public servants anywhere in society. It’s the hypocrisy of the pot calling the kettle black. Students are punished for copying the sins of teachers and other adult leaders. Sex on our school grounds is believed to be commonplace, even in primary schools. No one speaks now of students kicked-out because of pregnancy. The average student has had an excursion into the land of drugs, alcohol, sex, warfare of many dimensions. It is the prevailing culture of our time. It produces the material with which we build the bridge to the future. Is there hope?
And then there is the reality of the gang-bangers. Here there are both sexes. To this our educational system must wake up, take its head out of the proverbial sand and have street smart advisers as consultants. Then let us advance a brand new approach. The old time guidance counselor is not equipped to be the gatekeeper. Represented in our schools are the Raiders, the Pick Up Crew, the East Street Mob, Hot Boyz, West Side Raiders, the Mob, the Rebellions, the Lizzy Mob, the Zoe Pound Dogs, Gun Dogs, War Dukes, Hoyas, Pinewood Niggers, the Shebellions, the Masquerades, Jungleliss, Sharks, Syndicates (old people from the Raiders and Rebellions), the Hornets, the War Kings, Yen Men, the Sniper Devils, the Dogs, the Shields, the Cowboys etc.
Gangs are spread in pockets all over New Providence with at least one new one being birthed every week. They have now infiltrated the Family Islands.
I was the lone guidance counselor at Programme SURE (Success Ultimately Reassures Everyone) for many years. It was the greatest and most naked exposure to life that I have ever had. I learned of all the gangs. There I met representatives of them all. Many were crying for escape, others were lauding the culture. All too often, many could neither read nor write and were totally illiterate. A young 12-year-old in the program, with tears in his eyes, looked in my eyes and asked, “Can you please teach me how to read?” He wanted an instant miracle. He saw this as his route out of this enslaving lifestyle. If we could only deploy reading specialists throughout our system. To our shame, we still practice social promotion. We just want illiterate and therefore troublemakers out of our hair. We are not conscious of the fact that we push maladjusted illiterates into the path of being “road-scholars” who will now come to exact their pound of flesh from a community that refused to invest time, energy and learning into them.
Why would any child glory in street names such as: Ice, Super, Dope Boy, Patch, Mob Princess, Rye Mob, Doughnut, Mob Cat, Birdman, Bats, Crab, Shocker, Strutter or Donkey? What does this say about their character? Doesn’t this indicate character traits. Does this say anything to you about the material available to build the bridge to the future?
In our Bahamas, has fashion replaced common sense? It’s amazing how broke people can keep their many children up to date with the latest fashion items. Gone are the days when common sense took priority to materialism, when we lived within our means. Good old sweet water was king and the little money we had went on our education.
We have plenty work to do to rebuild character and instill the all-important spiritual values. Until and unless we find a way to bring back good old-fashioned spiritual values we will lose big time. We must learn to replace the same old values into new packages and thus make them marketable and relevant to our times. Australia is known as the land of chaplaincy because they have gone at this “whole-hog” as they confront societal woes. There are trained and properly equipped chaplains in every system of life especially within the schools. Many other countries are known to take this approach. Our problem in The Bahamas is to define a chaplain. He is not a quack, is not a maladjusted clergy person, is not simply a prayer warrior. Can we only study these models with the intention to learn from them? We must take a radical approach to the construction of this bridge to the future.
We must not create a new hypocrisy while we try to destroy old ones for the sake of our children. We must think out of the box and dare to bring radical changes in our national system of education etc. Yes, there is hope, but a radical new approach is the only way to go. New people with new ideas must be brought in. The new wine into the old wine skins wouldn’t do. The future beckons us. We are building the bridge to the future everyday. The time and resources we invest in our children are the material we send up in building this bridge. Simply put, we will reap what we sow.
• Rev. Canon S. Sebastian Campbell is rector at St. Gregory’s Anglican Church.