In this article, I propose to provide some solutions to the pandemic that is sweeping across London and other parts of the Diaspora. During my research, it became apparent that our youth are perpetrators or have been victims of crime in USA, Canada, Italy, Germany and other parts of the Diaspora. We are burying our young men on a regular basis. I have dealt with several of the cases, supporting the victims' families across the UK. Let us be candid here. In most of the houses that I attended there were absent fathers, with the mothers doing their best to put food on the table. There have been some success stories of lone parents bringing up their children in London. The next article will focus on some of the youth who have managed, despite all odds to complete universities such as Oxford and Cambridge and are working in top jobs in the City of London.
I discovered that the contributory factors to the escalating incidents of gun and knife crime include the following:
Style of parenting and communication
Parenting is the biggest and most important factor attributing to the behaviour of our young black boys these days. Most of these young men have no identity; they do not identify with their African roots and grow up with a sense of no belonging. Most African parents, particularly Ghanaians are unwilling or unable to teach their children their mother tongue. They do not explain their history, culture or roots. Many young people growing up in London would rather say they are Caribbean, Jamaican than say Ghanaian. Most are ashamed of their heritage, which is unfortunate. Why are they embarrassed about their roots?
Our style of parenting needs to be examined. Our communication skills are often non-existence, ineffective or fall short of expectation. How can you train a child when you cannot even communicate with that child? I always praise my parents, for they are truly inspirational.
Some of our children were born and bred in London, however, they speak their mother tongue fluently. They also fully appreciate and understand that morality and dignity matters. Whereas some Ghanaian parents claim their children will be confused if they are taught to speak their native languages.
Compared to Asian children, such as the Chinese, they speak English in addition to their mother tongue. Most Chinese kids growing up in London are the disciplined, cultured and academic. What Ghanaian parents must understand is that certain phrases only have the intended impact when spoken in your native dialect.
Our children, especially the boys, lack good role models. A mother can never play the role of both mother and the father no matter how strict or authoritarian she is. A young British-Ghanaian woman stated that “Too many men act as sperm donors in the Diaspora. They father children and expect the state to look after them. Money is not all a child needs to flourish, love, care and a sense of belonging is what is needed. Most of these children growing up without male parents are often full of resentment and anger and look for ways to oust those feelings. They often feel no one cares and tend to join gangs as a way of belonging.”
Lack of parental interest
Several parents do not really know their children. They do not know their friends; they do not know their children's interests, hobbies, their wants, and needs. Many parents do not even sit with their children one-on-one to eat dinner and just talk. Many African parents are in denial about what their children get up to outside the home, are ignorant about their potential and yet are quick to judge other people's children.
The UK education system
It is a well established and documented fact that black boys have been underachieving in British schools for over two decades. How many parents have really sat down and wondered why? What are we going to do about it? How many parents regularly visit their children's schools or colleges, attend Open days and parents' evenings? Some only go to the school when there is a problem. Many of our children often find themselves excluded or suspended. Some are banished to the library during classes for being disruptive. Our children have been stereo-typed for years and these boys live up to these labels and stigma. Some are hyperactive and have been diagnosed with Attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) and given all sorts of medication with side-effects such as Ritalin. Once the medication wears off, the children have in some cases caused untold damage.
The schooling system fails to motivate, drive and challenge these black boys because they cannot associate with what is being taught in the classroom. In a typical science lesson for example, they are taught about Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein. What do these men have in common? They are all white, middle-aged, who went to Cambridge or Oxford. How can a child growing up on a council estate in Peckham relate to posh white men who did science 100 yrs ago, who went to universities which even in 2011 some colleges haven't had a black undergraduate student for years?
The mainstream media in the UK often portrays the black young male in an extremely negative light which has a tremendous influence. A few years ago, a version of big brother which was supposed to showcase young achieving role models, televised white business entrepreneurs, inventors, scientists, and a young 19-year old Scottish parliamentarian. The two blacks showcased were a musician and a boxer. Our children are often told at school that they can only achieve in sports or music as they are black. The girls can be nurses, dressmakers, hairdressers or social workers. Is that to say there are no young high ambitious and achieving blacks in the U.K? When we watch TV soaps such as Eastenders and Coronation Street, the black men are either sweeping the streets or committing crime. Who is going to portray us in a good light?
It is up to our media to showcase the positive role models in our community, not just at awards ceremonies. We have positive role models including Parliamentarians, Bishops, Doctors, Architects, Nurses, Lawyers and other professionals, both young and old. The notable ones include Lord Paul Boateng of Akim and Wembley (House of Lords); Hon. Adam Afriyie MP for Windsor, Oswald Boateng, Elsie Owusu OBE (Architect) Frank Panford QC and Judge Owusu-Abebrese.
It is time for us to examine our own behaviour and the impact it has on our children. Spend more quality time with our children, identify mentoring schemes for the, take then to functions and holidays, speak our mother tongue, teach them basic values, encourage them and nurture them for they are our future leaders. The welfare of our children is paramount.
By Georgette Dede Djaba, LL.M (London) Email: [email protected]