What dreams may come
February 21, 2004
Last night, I had a dream. I dreamed a teacher had found four children covered in scars and fresh wounds and had reported it to the authorities. I dreamed a man had been charged with inflicting these scars and wounds and had been remanded to prison. I dreamed that on that day, in a land where people were known to protest injustice, there were just three placards and only few voices raised against the harm done to these children, mainly from the small community where the children had lived.
I dreamed of a grandmother, whose grandson had his arm broken when a teacher hit him on it with part of a broken chair, pleading for word of an investigation three months after the incident.
I dreamed of an adolescent who took her own life when it seemed no one would rescue her from a life of sexual abuse.
I dreamed of Lilly Wong and Akeem Trotman and countless others.
I dreamed of pleas in this column in July 2000 for a halfway home for children upon whom violence has been inflicted. This followed reports that same month that an eight-month-old was flung against the wall by his father, who was angry that he had been asked to make the bed. A five-year-old was neglected and ill-treated by his father and stepmother. A 15-month-old was dehydrated and malnourished after being abandoned by his mother and left home alone by his father. Are any of them any better off today than they were nearly four years ago?
I dreamed there was more advocating, also from this page, for a children-and people-friendly place for the Ministry of Human Services to operate from. Is our government so uncaring that social and welfare workers are still struggling to operate from tiny cubbyholes?
I dreamed that a survey published in October 2000 on teacher abuse of children in secondary schools in Guyana, which revealed that of 1200 children surveyed, 172 children were cursed; 135 were called derogatory names by teachers; 488 were insulted; 592 were neglected; 69 were kissed; 21 were fondled; 160 had teachers use obscene words to them and 30 had sexual intercourse with teachers. Has anything been done to curb this trend? And if this was experienced by adolescents, who we assume can better take care of themselves, has anyone spared a thought for nursery and primary-aged children?
I dreamed that in April 2001 14-year-old Taigwan Sundar died after his father admitted to beating him with a piece of wood and putting him out on the street clad only in his underwear. Despite many appeals from concerned relatives the police were never able to charge anyone with his unlawful death.
I dreamed that this country was represented at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Children in September 2001 and that UNICEF's 'Say Yes for Children' campaign was launched in Guyana in August 2001. But what has been done for battered, defenceless children as a result of these things and where are the success stories?
I must have dreamed, because none of these things could have happened.
I struggled to wake up, but could not because the dream was real.
In his soliloquy while contemplating suicide, William Shakespeare's Hamlet says: "To die, to sleep ... To sleep, perchance to dream. Ay there's the rub, for in that sleep of death what dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil, must give us pause..."
"What dreams may come... must give us pause", a selective quote from Hamlet, which has been used by countless writers in myriad situations. This society has a culture of not getting involved in any cause which does not affect us directly, but surely such atrocities committed against so many innocents must give us pause? And in that pause, we must recognise the aptness of the clichÃ©d statement: 'I don't know how he/she/they sleep at night.'