September 12, 2014
Lack of respect for property is at the heart of vandalism

Fri Sep 12, 2014

In this issue, we publish some sad tales of vandalism of school property. It is a most unfortunate development, made all the more regrettable by the fact that while it is nothing new, the situation seems to be worsening and reaching critical levels. The comments of three teachers and an education official in those stories indicate that the matter has grown out of hand.{{more}}

It would be interesting if one were to quantify the extent of such damage nationally, and give a dollar value for it. We are certain that those figures will shock us all. In addition to the physical costs, there is also the cost of time involved. Yet we are always complaining, parents especially, about either inadequate provision of furniture in schools or the state of those provided.

The educators quoted have not been hesitant in analysing the problem as a societal one, correctly so in our opinion. It therefore calls for it to be addressed at all levels of the society. Parents in particular have a vital role to play in the solution, for in addition to their personal attachment to their children, some of whom are the main offenders, they are also members of the community and citizens.

At the heart of the problem is the issue of respect for property. That has to be inculcated in the home to begin with, thus the critical role parents must play. Then there is the wider respect for the property of others, brothers and sisters, friends, private property in the community. That leads us to the level where it appears we have most difficulty, respect for public property.

It is a major issue in a society where people have been historically alienated from the State to the extent that we speak of “the Government” and “them”, as though it has nothing to do with us. It is used as a poor excuse to vandalize or at least not to take care of public property. Some even ridiculously confuse political affiliation with State property.

That attitude of disrespecting public property applies equally to other types of Government property and vehicles, including by persons employed by various arms of the State. It is one of the reasons why it is so difficult to maintain public toilets in working order and in an hygienic condition and why so many persons persist with wanton disposal of garbage. We pay the price in times of natural disasters.

It is not an easy problem to handle. True, there is need for punitive measures, as called for by educators, including making those who destroy school and public property directly responsible for their replacement. But we cannot ignore the wider picture and not target the home and society.

In addition to social programmes aimed at parents, perhaps we should consider greater community involvement in responsibility for our schools, expanded roles for Parent/Teacher Associations and community organisations. National pride and individual responsibility surely demand urgent attention.