On a recent engagement with the Childcare and Protection Agency (CPA), Dr Yeaswantie Beekhoo, an exceptionally effective philosopher and psychologist, who combines elements of eastern and western psychology in an offering that is holistic in practice, explained to me that, as a philosopher, she works with patterns.
One pattern that emerges in her line of work is that children of broken homes themselves ultimately go on as adults to form relationships which repeat the examples set by their parents; that is, we can expect to see a cross-generational pattern of broken hearts and broken families.
The world has seen pop singer Rhianna, of Guyanese heritage, analyse, on one of Oprah’s shows, her own relationship with Chris Brown and the unconscious connection that abusive relationship had to her relationship with her father.
In our country, where we have so many impoverished single parent families and children exposed in early childhood to violence, hate and diatribe in parental relationships, the trend of patterns signifies a generational curse that is placed upon children of broken homes. The question that arises is: How do we break this cycle to save future generations from the failures of their parents?
It certainly implies that breaking the cycle of poverty cannot be done only with education that involves teaching children Mathematics, English Language, Science and Social Studies. Even strengthening Health and Family Life Education (HFLE) on the primary and secondary school curricula is not enough to break the curse on a significant proportion of our nation’s children. And we see it in the videos on social media of the state of our nation’s poorest children.
We need general knowledge of psychology.
What truly needs to improve is national awareness of this pattern, and its implications and risks, as well as the quality of the intervention currently being offered by the Child Care and Protection Agency.
That Agency, like all our Government organisations, can do more to streamline and improve its effectiveness and efficiency, and the quality of its day-to-day decision- making. This, however, cannot be done without the right policy guidance, which comes from the political directorate of our country. Government after Government continues to downplay the importance of the Ministry of Social Protection.
A prerequisite for national development is healthy, happy, educated and productive adult citizens. It therefore means that any political administration that is serious about national development needs to zoom in on the challenge of, and hindrances to, human development. Policies for poverty reduction and wealth creation need to be developed in an integrated manner that is driven by data of actual problems being faced by Guyanese.
The University of Guyana can strengthen its engagement with the Ministry of Social Protection in terms of evaluating the quality of its educational programmes, powering staff of the Ministry, and in the area of research. The Child Care and Protection Agency is in possession of data that can be used to support longitudinal studies to evaluate the effectiveness of the University’s interventions, and the Agency needs this help.
One peeved father told me, while standing in one of those Republic Bank lines, that his daughter was taken away from him and given to the care of her mother. The mother was a careless woman who allowed the young teen to have boyfriends. The man’s daughter ended up pregnant, and he was asked whether he would take responsibility for her in that condition, which he did.
This is a clear example of the poor quality of decision-making being done by the Child Care and Protection Agency, which operates in constant fire-fighting mode, with staff under-qualified to make effective decisions. When we have under-qualified staff operating in fire-fighting mode, as we do in Guyana, what can help are clearly-thought-out Statements of Operating Procedures based on known trends and patterns. In the example mentioned above, simply sending the child to live with the ‘mother’ is not a sufficient criterion. It was a negligent decision.
The Agency needs more information on the lifestyle of the mother, because children are also sexually abused by mother’s boyfriends. If the laws of Guyana do not support the Agency making informed decisions on the future of children, the laws need to be changed.
I offer this bit of insight in the hope that other psychologists and agencies in Guyana can help to raise awareness of this cross-generational pattern of broken hearts, broken relationships, and broken families; so that, as a nation, we can formulate better policies to yield better informed and happier citizens, who can be empowered with the right knowledge and by the right education curriculum to break the cycle of poverty and ignorance that engulfs many of our families across generations of human suffering.