It takes a village

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I have noted with interest the many community centres being opened or renovated by the Government. I could not help but remember when, in my late teens and early 20s, the Mt Hope/Mt Lambert Community Centre was my stomping ground. I recall rehearsing there for the Best Village Trophy Competition, attending courses there, and participating in programmes of the Angelic Youth Group.

I was an active member of the Catholic Youth Organisation, but was invited to join the Anglican Youth Group as well.

Recently I attended the 90th birthday celebrations of retired clerk of appeals Alston David Romeo, and was pleasantly surprised at the transformation of that community centre.

Many years ago, I was fortunate to participate in a United States International Visitors Leadership Programme. One of the programmes I observed was the Building Blocks programme in the state of Kentucky. It involved older women in the community assisting young mothers by passing on to them child-rearing skills, and actually caring for the babies and young children of those young mothers in order to allow the mothers to have some time free from child-rearing responsibilities.

It is well-documented that unrelieved stress of caring for babies, toddlers and young children can sometimes cause mothers to abuse their children. A child-care facility which can, periodically, relieve mothers from that stress would cause a decrease in child abuse.

A few years ago, a young boy was left in the care of an older sibling, as his father had to go to work and could not afford daycare.

The young boy was washed away in a canal during heavy rainfall, and drowned.

I reminded the government then of its obligation under Article 18 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child ‘to render appropriate assistance to parents and legal guardians in the performance of their child-rearing responsibilities and… ensure the development of institutions, facilities and services for the care of children’.

One much-needed facility is a child-care facility for babies and young children.

Some community centres come alive with activities in the afternoon and late evenings and remain unoccupied during the day. A section of these centres can be outfitted as day-care centres to provide for those children whose mothers or single fathers cannot pay for childcare, which can be very expensive.

Childcare can be an hourly care to allow parents to run errands, part-time, to allow for certain activities such as attendance at courses; or may be full-time care for mothers or fathers who work.

In our ageing population, there are many retired persons who wish to keep active and may be willing to make a useful contribution to the society in that way.

Although many would be willing to do such service on a voluntary basis, the Government can explore the possibility of payment of a stipend to encourage those who live in the village to raise a child.

Homework centres can also be housed in the community centres for children who are having areas of difficulty at primary and secondary levels. Older children who have excelled in certain subjects can also be encouraged to give an hour a week to assist their peers.

Study groups can also be instituted, so pupils can learn cooperation and live the motto: ‘We are in this together.’

Let’s make our community centres become centres for community building not only among the middle-aged or sporting community, but for the social and educational development of all.

Hazel Thompson-Ahye
Child Rights Advocate