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Friday, August 01, 2014
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Children out of control in Blanchisseuse
If it takes a village to raise a child, then Blanchisseuse is failing. Too many Blanchisseuse teenagers are becoming out of control, say several community elders there. Teenagers drink alcohol, conceive children of their own through early unprotected sexual activity, and they display a level of indiscipline that the elders feel has the seaside village in a crisis. It is a crisis of bad parenting, education and unemployment, just as much as youthful delinquency.
In a bid to restore order, the elders are calling for the intervention of community police and Arima MP Rodger Samuel. On any given day, teenage boys are spotted in bars consuming alcohol and smoking. They routinely lime at street corners, use obscene language, and fight with rival gangs from neighbouring communities such as La Fillette. Education and learning a skill are not priorities for these boys.
Several girls, on the other hand, have become mothers before their time, getting involved in sexual relationships with older men for money and dressing scantily in the clubs, according to sources. These problems have been ongoing for years, but are now escalating, said the distressed elders. Between 2011 to January 2014 there were 14 teenage pregnancies in Blanchisseuse, a source at the Ministry of Health confirmed on Thursday. Four of these pregnancies were girls 16 years old.
These figures were tallied by the Blanchisseuse Health Centre. On February 4, Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh disclosed that there were 2,500 teenage pregnancies in the country annually.
‘Kids rule their parents’
The remote beachside community has a population of 1,000, many of whom rely on fishing, agriculture and small businesses to survive. President of the Blanchisseuse Community Council Edric Elie believes that irresponsible youth behaviour is destroying the life of the community. He placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of misguided parents who were not taking control of their children.
“You know, it have a store in town call Kids Rule,” he said: “Well, in Blanchisseuse, the kids rule their parents, and they want to blame society and everybody else for the breakdown in family life today,” Elie said. “It boils down to poor parenting. Parents on the whole have a lackadaisical attitude. They just don’t care,” he said. Elie said many of the parents are young and are unable to firmly guide their own children, who are now going astray.
Elie: No good education, no community life for kids
Last year’s results in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate at the Blanchisseuse Secondary School, Elie said, were unsatisfactory. However, this could not be verified by school principal Phillip Carlo, who said he could not comment on school matters when contacted on February 7. “When they leave school, they can’t save a cent, but they saving hate,” Elie said. Elie said courses offered to teenagers would seldom peak their interest, while parents who are invited to community meetings would not show up.
Asked why girls as young as 13, 14 and 15 are seen late at nights with older men on the beaches in the area, Elie said this was the norm. “The girls would go with men who have funds. They would use the money to buy outfits...nice clothes. The question people are asking is: Where are their parents when the children are outside?” Elie said he knows of two schoolgirls who got pregnant in the village. Asked if the babies are provided for by the fathers, Elie responded:
“You are asking me a million-dollar question, but the answer is no. The thing about it is... they do not even tell their parents who is the father of their child.” Elie said the problem is exacerbated by the fact that villagers would not speak out on pertinent issues affecting the community.
Since last year, Elie said, their community centre and pavilion have been under repairs, while jobs are few and far between. “There is nothing to keep these youngsters occupied in a meaningful way,” Elie said.
Charles: Villagers too secretive
Also expressing similar sentiments was former president of the Blanchisseuse Community Council Owen Charles and his wife Loney, both elders in the community. Owen, 81, said boys in the village are not academically inclined and not interested in obtaining a skill to make themselves men. Instead, they prefer to sit at the street corner and “cuss, fight, or kick ball” rather than do something productive. He said what was equally disturbing was the fact that sexual activity among teenage girls is kept hush-hush in the close-knit community.
“You would hear people talking under their breath about a girl or girls involved in sexual activity, but that is as far as it goes. Wrongs are committed, but it would never reach the ears of the police.” Owen said long ago, primary and secondary students were lectured by the police. The secondary school students were advised to “condomise” when having sex to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies, while pupils in the primary schools were taught family values and respect for their parents and elders.
This, Owen said, needed to be reintroduced. “The police need to ask parents and children to come out together so we could tackle these problems,” Owen said. In some instances, Owen said, boys would drop out of secondary school, preferring “to walk up and down the road whole day. They are losing direction.” Loney, 84, agreed that parents had failed in their responsibility and were not setting limits for their children, who were doing as they please.
“The children have very little ambition. Education, to them, is not a priority. From the time you become a teenager you could do what you want and go where you want. There is no control by parents. There is no discipline. It’s time parents wake up. They bring these children into the world... they have a right to take care of them.” Long ago, Loney said, children were rooted in religion, which helped them to decipher right from wrong.
“Why would a parent allow their teenage daughter to wear a halter top to church? That is not for church. Miss, this is hurting us because that is not what I know and that is not what I expect from young people. They are not growing up with any spiritual values.” Loney said the Blanchisseuse Police do not interact with villagers and work with families who are going through difficult times. “Police does come and police does go. They do not mess with anybody,” Loney said.
—reporting by SHALIZA HASSANALI