My good friend X has just told me that one of the teenagers she’s been working with was stabbed to death on Saturday. She found out from the newspaper. He was found dead by a teacher on a landing in a block of flats. She felt devastated.
What can one say? Another Peckham 15 year old whose life has been snuffed out in a knife attack. A boy who’d sat beside her on the bus, chatting with her about wanting to put behind him his crime-filled, sordid existence and find something better. Only he didn’t really know how to, and couldn’t do it. He was too enmeshed, he’d made too many mistakes, and too many enemies. He was effectively trapped, and could find no way out, like so many victims in places like Peckham.
On a daily basis he’d walked a tightrope in a world seething with frustration, hatred, anger and revenge, and now he’d fallen off it, and would never get back on. Apparently he was no angel, but he genuinely knew that he needed to live in a better way, and needed to change the way he lived, and the way he dealt with his problems. He’d said he wanted to change.
The press are already drawing comparisons with the Damilola Taylor tragedy, in their usual facile way. Young boy + Peckham + stabbing = hate crime with no real motive. We shall see. Apparently there are several young suspects. Next we’ll have the hand-wringing and ‘what can we do to prevent more of these tragedies occurring?’ What indeed. What has really been done since Damilola died? What’s really changed? Fundamentally, as opposed to superficially?
The only thing that can make any permanent long-term difference is to make sure children in Primary school are ‘innoculated’ against the plague that surrounds them, and have strategies for coping with it when it hits them. Every child needs to develop high levels of social, emotional and spiritual intelligence. At the present time these things are hardly on the schools’ curriculum. Circle time! Is that it? Is that all? A token few minutes every day to explore PSHE ‘issues’? Is that going to do the trick?
When will we wake up and accept that these children are vulnerable and our priority should lie in dealing with their vulnerabilities, and making them strong in mind and spirit? This requires effort and resources, and changing our priorities for learning. [See Layer 19, subsection entitled ‘The Value of Investing in Emotional, Social and Spiritual Intelligence’, and on what the State of Colorado did after Columbine.]