Eliminating gangs through strong family bonds


THE growing number of gangs or notorious groupings in urban areas in our country is worrisome based on two aspects.Firstly, we are a Christian nation, so we are to be guided by the Christian principles and at the same time we should be promoting Christian values and ethics.
Secondly, we are a developing nation. Notorious gangs are a detriment to the development of our nation.
As a preventive measure in eradicating these notorious gangs, we must endeavour to find the root causes and establish that which is bringing these people together, so as to begin establishing solutions based on the findings.
What is true and common among members of these notorious gangs is that they are all coming from homes, families, neighbourhoods and communities.
However, what is terrifyingly about these gangs is the increase in numbers, their minimum age as low as 13 years and on how well they are organised. We are left to wonder on how a 13-year-old child would decide to embrace a life of criminality by committing so many atrocities under the umbrella of gangs?
Mostly it is under the influence of drugs or some kind of influence from older people. There are many contributing factors to the rising numbers of gangs.
However, it is worth mentioning that broken families have negative effects on children. Broken families and lack of family bonds make children susceptible to so many misdemeanours and pave way for juvenile and youth delinquency.
In the study of sociology, social groups often provide the experiences of socialisation and family is the first agent of socialisation.
Mothers and fathers, siblings and grandparents, plus members of an extended family, all teach a child what he or she needs to know. It is the parents or guardians who introduce children to the beliefs and values of society. The family communicate expectations and reinforce norms.
It is important to keep in mind, however, that families do not socialise children in a vacuum. Many social factors impact on how a family raises its children. For example, we can use sociological imagination to recognise that individual behaviours are affected by the historical period in which they take place.
Based on t h e historical effects, gangs are burgeoning in the same places with more or less similar past experiences. As a result, though considering the dynamism and symbolism of a person, what we are experiencing today might have been directly or indirectly communicated to these children.
That is why as we find measures of eliminating gangs, let us get deeper in the history of these affected areas where gangs are mushrooming and begin to destroy them from their roots.
In view of eliminating gangs, there is a need to establish a peer grouping monitoring mechanism by parents and communities. A monitoring mechanism is needed to help parents and communities trace signs at their level and become aware of the delinquencies of their sons which eventually lead to the formation of gangs. These notorious gangs from both Copperbelt and Lusaka are similar in age, social status and share same interests.
For that reason, prevention of gangs can also take place by sensitising parents and guardian to realign the interests of these peers into value skills for a decent life. We are privy to the fact that peer group socialisation begins in the earliest years, such as when kids on a playground teach younger children the norms about taking turns or the rules of a game.
As children grow into teenagers, this process continues. It is also at this level that we need to scrutinise some aspirations of these peers. Positively, peer groups are important in shaping adolescents as they begin to develop an identity separate from their parents and exert independence.
Then as children begin to attain independence; parents, guardians and the community need to take a starring role in rendering to these children the right view of freedom and independence, which rests in doing that which is morally right. According to Pope Francis, “the family is the first school of human values, where we learn the wise use of freedom”.
Socially, peer groups provide their own opportunities for socialisation since kids usually engage in different types of activities with their peers than they do with their families. So it is the responsibility of parents, guardians and the community to take interest in what these peers are feeding each other, so as to inculcate in them moral values.
Optimistically, peer groups provide adolescents’ first major socialisation experience outside the realm of their families. Interestingly, studies have shown that although friendships rank high in adolescents’ priorities, this is balanced by parental influence.
So parents should always take an upper hand in ensuring that sound values and skills are nurtured in their children.
There is power in bringing closeness in the family. When we begin to strengthen our family bonds, care for those falling astray will be coming from all corners.
This makes a home the best rehabilitation environment.
The family as an institution which provides social comfort is better placed to help reform these young-gangsters.
Imploring more security forces is not the only solution but a temporary one if the roots of notorious activities are not uprooted. Indeed, acting aggressively only forces these young people to go into hiding without any change or traces of quitting such lifestyles.
As soon as the security forces leave the places, the gangs re-emerge.
Considerably, we must also address our country’s high levels of poverty, lack of social amenities and high levels of unemployment, which are also contributing factors.
As Government empowers youths, let it also pay recourse to a set of structural reforms which will make youngsters coming from gang-prone areas preoccupy themselves with productive activities.
Gangsters can change to be better, but that change can only be attained entirely with some structural reforms, particularly those structures which are making young people vulnerable to form gangs.
Eliminating gangs rests in the hands of every patriotic citizen.
Our rich African culture, which embraces the extended family and community, is the answer to eradicating the budding gang culture.
So the moment we begin to strengthen our family ties, we will manage to overcome these gangs because these young people belong to our homes, families and communities.
The author is a pastoral agent.

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