Children as lifestyle accessories

31 October 2013
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Minister of Education David Namwandi seems shocked to discover that drug and alcohol abuse is a serious problem in our schools. He apparently only realised this after a recent police raid at a school in the Khomas region in which a large percentage of students tested positive for drug use.

So what’s new! Most of us could have told him this a long time ago, and we would have added that drugs and alcohol abuse have plagued our schools for at least the last 15 years.

Nevertheless, we are heartily grateful that our Minister of Education now also knows this.

It does not end with drugs and alcohol. This week we also learnt that seven schoolboys used the J.A. Nel Secondary School hostel in Keetmanshoop as a base for allegedly carrying out robberies and three murders.

Now that we all know we have a crisis on our hands, the question is what we can do about it.

Namwandi further highlighted the increasing incidence of violence by learners against teachers, violent conduct against other learners, the presence of gangs at schools, stabbings and even killings.

For us as adults and parents it is easy to fall into the trap of railing against the indiscipline and unruly behaviour of today’s youth.

Things were different when we were young we say to ourselves. Young people knew how to behave and they showed respect for their elders and authority.

We nostalgically long for the days when corporal punishment provided a quick fix for everything, and six whacks of the cane would quickly sort out any misbehaving child.

It is however, a dangerous fallacy to think that the abolition of corporal punishment can explain the problems of the present-day generation.

Young people themselves cite a variety of reasons for increasing drug and alcohol abuse, as well as the growing despair that fills their lives.

The complain about the lack of recreational activities, the influences of modern culture like music and movies, peer pressure, easy access to drugs but above all disinterested and absentee parents.

Some of the reasons given clearly have more validity than others are.

The real difference between the present and the past lies not in the absence of corporal punishment, but the fact that past generations had what one could describe as real parents.

Far too many parents have become so obsessed with accumulating positions, ever-greater amounts of money and material possessions that they no longer have any time for their children.

They spend so much time on the never-ending rat race to acquire bigger, better houses and cars and other possessions that even the children become mere lifestyle accessories.

Many parents see their children as something nice to show off to their friends when they behave well, keep the snot off their faces and stay clean but otherwise a nuisance that they just don’t have time for.

Being a parent is full-time occupation and not a sporadic or intermittent pastime.

Young people need love and attention; they need their parents to give them the assurance, guidance and strong foundation they require to navigate the hazards of modern life.

Only parents can instil character, moral values and a sense of right and wrong in young people.

We can point the finger at the behaviour of young people as much as we like but in the end, the finger will always point back at us as parents.

We need to understand that when our children indulge in drugs or alcohol, attack teachers at school or stab other learners it is a cry for help.

They are crying out for someone to help fill the emptiness and sense of self that we as parents have failed to provide in their lives. If parents fill that void, no amount of MTV music videos, Hollywood movies or peer pressure will make young people fall off the rails.

In our highly materialistic world, parents need to teach by example.

They have to show young people that material possessions do not make you a worthwhile human being, but rather good character, knowledge and wisdom.

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