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Where are we going wrong in raising troubled youth?

SCENE OF THE CRIME: Police collect evidence at the scene of Quamari Barnes' murder

JUST WHEN you think the issue of teenagers murdering teenagers is a thing of the past, it re-enters your present with a force that takes you by surprise, shock and pain.

This is what happened to me when the killing of 15-year-old Quamari Barnes hit the headlines. While on his way home from school he was stabbed by a schoolboy assailant. He died in hospital. A fellow 15-year-old has been charged with his murder.

Teenage murders seem to be one long-running saga in our community we can’t get away from, but burying our heads in the sand is not going to make the problem stop.

In a recent Facebook post, I highlighted that the black community is the most churched community in the UK. A survey carried out by London City Mission covering church attendance from 2005 to 2012 found that 48 per cent of church-goers in inner London were black. This means that our young people are the most prayed for young people in the London, and possibly the UK, but yet comprise most of the victims and perpetrators of youth stabbings.

Something is clearly going wrong. We have to ask ourselves the question: where are we going wrong in raising our youth, and, more importantly, how can we put it right? When I asked this question on Facebook, I received a multitude of answers, with a number calling for a return to community parenting. One contributor wrote:

“I never used to be able to do something bad out on the streets without an elder (whether I knew them or not) being able to check me on it and tell me off if needed!

“There is no respect for elders anymore and because of that kids are left to their own devices and cannot be told anything anymore. It’s got to the point where elders are frightened of the younger generation.”

RIP: Willesdon's slain teen Quamari Barnes

It’s pretty obvious that some, and I stress some people – young and old – have totally lost sight of the values that at one time exemplified our community characteristics. They included having a love for family, respect for yourself and others, working hard, valuing education, respecting elders, honouring life, helping those in need and honouring God.

If these values seem to be lacking in their youth, the older generation need to ask themselves if they did a good job in passing them down. If the answer is ‘no’, the action plan should be devised to re-instate them.

Community parenting seems a good way to go. This would entail everyone seeing the children of others as their own and showing general care and concern. This would go some way in helping our youth feel safe and secure, and let them know that they are cared for.

Sometimes communities have to go back to move forward. We need to look back and retrace the steps that took us to the place where we are now, so that we can take the right path to move forward. We always ask what can be done when a youth killing hits the headline – but this time let’s not just ask the question, let’s do something about it.

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