Category Archives: Commentary

General thoughts and opinions on things that I see around me

Protect our children!

As I sit here and try to get my thoughts together for my project, I can’t help but flash back to all the Facebook posts I’ve seen recently with reference to the recent abuse claims leveled against a well known teacher.

I do have issues with this as I am a teacher/lecturer (on hiatus). Harassment in any form is not what my profession is about. My profession is about creating a safe environment where children/students can express themselves. The safe space is to foster their growth, not just in the subjects being taught, but growth in themselves. Teachers might not be the most important people in students’ lives but they indirectly act as role models for those whose futures they help to mold.

As a person trained in the field of journalism and someone who prides herself on being a critical thinker, I will state that I don’t have all the facts to say if he is guilty or not guilty. I don’t know the individuals making allegations, I cannot personally vouch for their credibility. In addition, all of the ‘supporting’ evidence are being shared via social media by individuals who are referencing what they ‘heard’ – they are not the victims but secondary sources. I have not seen any concrete evidence so far (maybe I missed those posts). However, I do feel that there are too many accusations being made to dismiss this as a disgruntled ex-girlfriend and her current boyfriend victimizing the teacher. If people are willing to reference incidents they know about via their personal Facebook pages and open themselves up to public scrutiny then they must have evidence; they must have reasons to believe the victims who were brave enough to share their stories. That is good enough for me, for now, to support the call for actions to be taken against this teacher. He should be suspended and an investigation launched immediately.

The funny thing is that the biggest issue I have, with this particular story, is with the headmistress of the school. I take issue with the manner in how she slut-shamed and (re)victimize these impressionable young women at an assembly. There is proof of what she did and she should be immediately suspended! She does have a right to her opinions and to support her colleague if she feels that he is being wronged but not by humiliating and intimidating those under her charge. She is an individual entrusted with safeguarding those children/minors and what she did is wrong. There are no “ifs” or “buts” at all!

Away from this particular incident now and with a focus on child abuse in general…

We need to address this and FAST! The culture of child abuse is gaining more publicity and all the “hush hush” incidents are coming to light. Let’s get things in motion to ensure that what we deal with are past incidents and that the alley ways for possible future abuse are blocked! There are numerous literature available on “What is child abuse?”, “Signs of child abuse.”, “How to talk to children about child abuse.” and so forth.  There are no ends of the discussions in the media, etc. now. There needs to be action! We need to stop discussing and start doing – stop regurgitating. We need to be PROACTIVE!

In my opinion, there seems to be one big thing missing.

We need to empower the (possible) victims – the children/youth/minors. We have entrusted adults too much in the past, many who have failed from the magnitude of reports in the media, etc.. It is a time to focus on equipping the children with the knowledge and the avenues to address abuse – from the simplest feeling of being leered at to actual sexual abuse. Talk to the children from the time they can understand, let them know what behaviors are not acceptable, let them know what safe environments exist where they can report problems. It’s been too long that “sex” and topics around “sex” are seen as taboo – as ‘adult’ things. When our children, our future, are being treated like adults by predators, we need to let them know it’s okay to simply say the word “sex” in the presence of adults and to talk about it openly so that they know they can express themselves.  

How do I propose we empower them? I’m sure there are a lot of things experts can suggest. As a communication major, use of ‘media’ comes to mind. By extension, these ideas are running around in my mind:

  1. Have one hour sessions in schools about social issues, each week – make it a norm. Each week can be used to discuss a different issue or different aspect of the issues with creative activities to ensure information is retained. Creating awareness is step one for combating any problem!
  2. Conduct these sessions by classes – like any other subject being taught. Do not separate based on gender as that creates barriers that we don’t need. The era of teaching boys and girls separately about social issues is over. If they cannot see all perspectives then how can they fully understand?
  3. Encourage students to talk to other students. Encourage them to look for signs of abuse in others and to encourage possible victims to open up about problems. It is easier for children to talk to each other as opposed to an adult in some instances. In addition, they should know that they have nothing to be ashamed of that the person who is wrong is the predator! 
  4. Create a public space where children can share information with other children as the main target audience and then the wider society as the secondary audience. Let them be the creators of the content based on their understandings since the adult created content are not really making an impact. Adults can be there to guide only, not direct or take an active role. Let the children use media to tell their own stories! Facebook has been used a lot lately to say a lot – why not encourage groups of children to create Pages where they can do this? 
  5. Oh! We also need to STOP VICTIM BLAMING, slut shaming and all those unsavory things!!! 

In conclusion, yet again I say EMPOWER THEM! GIVE THEM THE TOOLS TO TAKE THE LEAD, with the support of trusted adults!

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Misuse of The Golden Arrowhead – Guyana’s National Flag

“It is the duty of every citizen of Guyana wherever he or she may be and of every person in Guyana to respect the national flag, the coat of arms, the national anthem, the national pledge and the Constitution of Guyana, and to treat them with due and proper solemnity on all occasions.”
My Guyana El Dorado by Taijrani Rampersaud
My Guyana El Dorado by Taijrani Rampersaud

It is sad that 50 years as an independent state has not resulted in us, as Guyanese, being proud of and having respect for our national symbols. These symbols of nationhood represent one of the first steps we took following the casting off of the shackles of colonialism. They are proof that we are a free nation and are no longer ruled by any other…

Over the years, I have observed their misuse, especially that of the national flag. People paste the national flag on backwards as a form of decoration, they use it as a table cloth or curtain, they wear the flag as an item of clothing (sometimes cutting the flag for specific fittings) and throw the unwanted flags on the grounds after celebrations, (where people walk on them). Whenever possible, I intervened and had positive results the majority of times which highlights that not everyone who uses the flag inappropriately is aware of the disrespect. There is a need for education on the proper use of the national symbols – particularly the flag. It would be helpful if we can have a Guyana Flag Code similar to that of the United States of America or the Republic of India which can be consulted so that the dishonor does not occur time and again. Note: I couldn’t find any documentation about the use/misuse of the national flag, if you are aware of any such documentation I would appreciate it if you can forward me that information. 

Please, don’t misunderstand me. I love to see the Golden Arrowhead as I feel a sense of pride. However, this should be done in a proper manner. If people want to create a feeling of ‘oneness’ and togetherness, especially at national events, then use the symbols appropriately. Maybe the colors of the flag can be used, in proportion to how they are represented on the flag, however, the actual use of the flag inappropriately (I’ve given a few examples above) needs to be condemn.

Do you remember that line from our national pledge? It goes like this, “I pledge myself to honor always the Flag of Guyana…” To me, the use of flag instead of coat-of-arms or any other national symbol means something. The design and colors of our flag all have deep symbolism and when I say the national pledge and look at the flag I get this feeling which screams ‘I am a proud Guyanese.’ By making a pledge to the Golden Arrowhead, flying high and proud in the winds, I am making a commitment “…to be loyal to my country, to be obedient to the laws of Guyana, to love my fellow citizens, and to dedicate my energies towards the happiness and prosperity of Guyana.”

The flag is important, it is symbolic; to the world it says GUYANA. Let us treat it with the respect it deserves.