Editor's Comment

Let’s protect our children

A TEACHER supervises pupils in computer lessons.

TWO eminent Catholic bishops on Sunday dedicated their homilies on the current gassing situation which has left the nation on edge.
Bishops Ignatius Chama and Alick Banda took the matter to the pulpit because this sad development of gassing people’s homes and schools has resulted in citizens living in fear.
Arthur Wina School in Lusaka was the latest victim yesterday as its pupils were gassed.
What is worrying, like Archbishop Banda of Lusaka and Apostolic administrator of Ndola diocese said, is that these gassers have now resorted to using children in their schemes.
Northmead Primary School in Lusaka was allegedly gassed by a teenager from Garden Township. In the Arthur Wina School incident, again one of the suspects is said to have been a boy. This is a dangerous scenario.
In Chingola, too, the town that sparked the incidents, some gassers were young people who are supposed to be going to school to be groomed for their future.
Children are innocent and are not supposed to be used in such evil schemes.
But the gassers seem not to care about the means of achieving their evil deeds. All they care about is causing mayhem, even if it means abusing children, whose lives are placed at high risk.
Bishop Banda was categorical in his sermon that while the children of the perpetrators are daily attending school and having three meals, the vulnerable children are placed in harm’s way. This is wrong.
Instead of being in class learning, the vulnerable children are busy running around with gasses to inflict harm on innocent pupils and households.
And when they are caught, their sponsors are nowhere to bail them out and this could be the end of their dreams for a better life as they will be serving time in some reformatories.
Many of those who have been arrested are between 16 and 20 years old.
The participation of children in gassing activities – knowingly and unknowingly – is an indictment on society on their upbringing.
A child who is well groomed would never accept to participate in activities designed to harm another person or people.
But society is at sixes and sevens. Some children grow up on their own, as the case with those on the streets.
They are vulnerable to easy recruitment because they are in need of basic needs. For a few kwachas they would, without much persuasion, carry out the crimes.
On the flip side, children have also been participating in instant mob justice activities. This they have been doing by either actually throwing objects at suspects or cheering on the lynching.
This is dangerous for a society that desires to have children grow up respecting the law and, most importantly, human life.
Understandably, they and their parents are traumatised by the gassing incidents and are angry that the culprits are not being convicted. It is, however, wrong for parents to let their children begin to see the killing of people as a normal way of life. It is not.
A child who delights at seeing a person being burnt to death could grow up hardened to doing the same to anyone who wrongs him or her. This is wrong.
Think of it. When whistles are blown to alert a community of a danger, among the first to arrive at the scene are the children with view to helping in inflicting harm on the suspect. This tends to stick.
As investigative wings get down to the bottom of the gassing issue, parents should secure the safety of the children.
There is, however, every need for citizens to remain vigilant and be a brother’s keeper by looking out for friends and relatives alike. This is key to keeping criminals at bay and nabbing them.
There is also need to use social media wisely for the benefit of community members. Instead of using social media for spreading falsehoods, it should be used to communicate useful information such as security alerts.
Meantime, police should instil confidence in the citizenry by providing timely information as well as ensuring that those who have been arrested so far are taken to court.
This will send a message to the public that justice is being meted out to the suspects, and people would be encouraged to hand over suspects to the police.
For now, keep children out of this fiasco. Let’s protect them for now and for the future.

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