Should school children be involved in Protests?
Stabroek News
November 10, 2001

Dear Editor,

Television in Guyana is more than an instrument for entertainment. Events occurring globally and locally can be witnessed live or shortly after such occurrences in the comfort of one's home.

Education is greatly enhanced by programs produced and aired to audiences around the world.

Local television stations make efforts to bring news of important happenings. Some "newscasts" vary in the quality of the "news" brought to public notice.

Although no conclusive statistical evidence of a direct correlation between behaviour and television viewing has been forthcoming, there is a strong feeling that behaviour is in fact influenced by what is seen on television. Films of violence, idolized heroes and heroines portraying all kinds of immoral behaviour, pornography, etc. are blamed as causes of deviant behaviour, particularly by the young.

On at least three occasions Channel 6 Television has brought to public notice matters affecting certain schools in Guyana. I am sure more of these exposures will follow, since it is no secret that many of our school buildings and environs are in grave stages of disrepair. This situation exists in spite of the fact that many of our schools have been rebuilt and refurbished.

My particular concern about television coverage of these protests against poor conditions is the mobilization and encouragement of active participation by students of these schools. The ages of these students range from eight years to fourteen years.

I have no quarrels about adult protests, so far as they are within the ambit of the law and are justified in intent and content.

Sociologists and child psychologists may want to comment on the active participation by young children in public protests. Are parents aware of the implications that such behaviour can develop into? I am not a journalist and cannot comment on what are the parameters of proper reporting. But I do feel that persons in the media, particularly the electronic media, must display a great sense of responsibility, taking all factors into consideration before classifying what makes "news".

All of us have biases and prejudices. But to our credit, we also possess abilities to reason and to do things that impact on the greater good of society.

On GTV 11 I saw students of the Central High School earning high praise for contributing in no small way towards providing their school with a photocopying machine. Very heartwarming and a source of hope that properly guided our young people can achieve so much.

If we have to mobilize protesters to galvanize government officials into action, confine the actions to adults.

What of the parents and the Parents & Teachers Associations? What of other community leaders? We must represent our children's causes. Sensationalism may sell "news". It can result in deleterious results.

Yours faithfully,

Rudolph D. Mahadeo