Riots in England, lessons for Africa: the recent riots in England provide useful lessons for Africa. The state must not take away parental control over children!(Reflections of an ordinary woman) (Column)

Author:Djanie, Akua
 
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Back in May 2009, I wrote in this column about giving children their rights. My stance was that the only "right" children should have is the right to education, love, food, and shelter. I wrote back then: "These days not a day passes that we don't hear of a child stabbing another in the UK. Being in a gang and carrying weapons such as guns and knives appear to be the norm now for children growing up in the UK. And who is there to discipline them? Certainly not their parents or teachers, as the state has taken over that role."

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In light of the recent riots in England, I find myself once more reflecting on this issue of children's rights. Like everyone else who watched the scenes unfolding live on television, I was appalled by the behaviour of these children, some as young as 10 years old. But i was not shocked. What happened was bound to happen. It was just a matter of time.

And although there are many factors to consider when trying to account for what happened, for me, the major reason is children's rights. The day the state decided to give children their rights was the beginning of the end. Thanks to children's rights, adults can no longer discipline children. The power of the parent, the power of the teacher, the power of the elders in the community, were all taken away by the state. So what we saw in the UK riots was a reflection of a society in which children can do as they please. No adult would dare discipline them for fear of being reported to the authorities as abusers.

Thus I found it rather ironic that as riots the broke out across England and young people decided to loot as many goods as they could, the powers that be actually had the nerve to come on television and demand of parents to "phone your children to come home" (as Sir Paul Stephenson, Britain's police chief, put it). I mean, as I watched him speak, I wondered if my ears were deceiving me. Was that really the Commissioner of Police asking parents to tell their children what to do? What? Was this not England? The land where children have rights? The land where children can tell their parents to take the high road, but not in such a nice way?

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Amazingly, bir Paul stepnenson was not the only one. Soon politicians and other players in the field joined in. And I had to laugh. Not the kind of laugh that you do when you are happy, but the kind of laugh that asks "Are you for real?" Seriously. Did these people, these policy and...

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