It was almost impossible for me to finish writing this column as I was busy glued to my TV following the rather shocking events in London where youths have been involved in some of the worst riots that the UK has seen in decades.
The riots are said to have been sparked off by the shooting to death of a young black man named Mark Duggan by the police under circumstances that are still unclear. This happened in Tottenham and it is here that the first riots that were reported after his funeral. But within three days, the riots had spread throughout London, parts of Birmingham, Leeds among others.
The riots have been characterised by the looting and burning of shops as well as cars by masked/hooded teenagers. Just before I started writing this, BBC (TV) aired voices of two 17 year old girls who participated in the violence and looting. The two were confessed to having looted alcohol from shops and said they did what they did to “show the police that we can do what we want.” Imagine.
The dominance of youths in these London riots has led to many questioning the morals of these children. Some have blamed the police for delaying to respond to the crisis. Others have talked of the alleged softness of the police in dealing with the riotous children. However, the nature of the riots has turned the focus on the discipline and morals of the children.
Looking at images on BBC or Al Jazeera all you see are kids looting electronic shops, setting shops and cars on fire, throwing Molotov cocktails at police yet they have no demands whatsoever. The question is no longer, “What do they want?” but “Why are they stealing and setting London ablaze?
It is a clear case of theft and destruction with no clear political agenda. And the police have called on parents to reign on their children and ask them to stay home and away from the looting. Now that bit is what interested me.
The police has realised that the parents have a role to play in curbing this madness. If the parents are being asked to call their children home then they should also think about why their children would get involved in such scenes of blatant theft even before CCTV cameras.
Several commentators on TV pointed out that part of the problem was the failure by parents to instil discipline and values in their children. Parents are being blamed for relegating their role of disciplining their children to the school system. By giving their children a laissez faire treatment in this era of video games, iPods and television the parents may have unknowingly given rise to vagabonds waiting to cause mayhem.
It is dangerous for parents to simply think that teachers at school are the only ones supposed to instil discipline. Now that children in Rwanda are also at home for holidays this is a good time for parents to reflect on their children’s level of discipline as they watch events in London.
And this should also be the time for those parents who side with their errant children when they are found to be unruly. It is very common to find parents siding with an indisciplined child at school and blaming teachers for condemning the child’s unruly behaviour. Sometimes, students who are given light punishments prefer to call their parents to rescue them from the ‘bad’ school and its ‘bad’ teachers.
Parents should be able to know whether their child is the kind that would run to loot a shop if there was a slight excuse as in the case of UK. Does your child have enough morals to know that it is not right to loot and set shops on fire? Parents need to play their role effectively and not wait for teachers or even the police to reign in on their unruly children.