Every year, the United Nations General Assembly observes Global Day of Parents, a day set aside to honour parents throughout the world.
In Guyana, it is no different, there are a lot of parents who should be thanked for their unwavering commitment and non-ending sacrifice towards the good upbringing and development of their children.
While there are a lot of children who have to be thankful in Guyana, there are many who have been left abandoned, neglected and forgotten. Another militating factor which plagues not only Guyana but the Caribbean is the absent role of the father, the flip side of which invariably leads to increased cases of single-parent mothers.
These dynamics, which some sociologists argue is a product of years of social and cultural degradation of the psyche of the slaves and indentured labourers at the hands of colonial masters, so that they can effectively maintain control, have left an indelible mark on the characterisation of our people.
While there is no recent local statistics to go by, which is an indictment on our research and analytical institutions, the Guyana Bureau of Standards, in collaboration with United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), has outlined in its Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) sometime ago, that “almost one third (29 per cent) of all children under five years are living in a household without their biological father. One in three children (30 per cent) comes from the poorest quintile, whereas one in eight (13 per cent) comes from the richest quintile.” Taking into consideration the prevalent cases of child neglect and proliferation of single mothers, it can be rationally construed that after 10 years, that figure has increased.
According to the United Nations “many men have difficulty assuming the responsibilities of fatherhood, often with damaging consequences to families, and inevitably, society at large. Some fathers inflict domestic violence or even sexual abuse, devastating families and creating profound physical and emotional scars in children. Others abandon their families outright and fail to provide support. Researchers continue to explore how the presence or absence of fathers can affect children, in areas such as school achievement and crime.”
Sadly, too many children in Guyana are left without the critical nurturing support of a wholesome family unit during the most crucial years of their upbringing, leading them down a narrow path of anger and self-denigration. The spin-off effects of which leaves the young ones susceptible to negative influences such as gang-related crimes, drug abuse and from a sociological perspective, the perpetuation of the deserting cycle as the child becomes an adult.
There is no denying in recent years the increase in crimes being carried out by juveniles, whether they were the masterminds is yet to be determined, but what is clear is that egregious acts of murders and robberies are being committed by children who come across as unsympathetic and distanced when caught or confronted.
According to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) there are factors that may reduce the onset of risky behaviour in delinquent juveniles; these are seen as protective factors and include “close emotional ties with at least one adult; a sense of safety and belonging to an educational institution” which will impart strong social skills; ability to solve problems, and a sense of purpose and independence.
The root of the problem, however, has to be addressed at the family level. Through the process of educating, we need to propel a greater awareness of just how important of a role the parents play within the construct of the family and the influence this has on the positive developmental trajectory of the child.