SA youngsters condemn children’s involvement in looting
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Johannesburg - A group of youngsters who are part of the Teddy Bear Clinic’s diversion programme have strongly condemned the recent mass looting, particularly incidents involving children.
Many of them said they personally witnessed scenes of children accompanying their parents to ransack stores and shopping complexes and urged their peers to reconsider their actions.
“I’ve seen parents coming from looting with their kids, especially around Alexandra,” said a 12-year-old who did not want to be named.
“It's not right at all and parents should not be encouraging their children to take things that don't belong to them.”
The adolescent added that youngsters were vulnerable to bad influences and that their childhood actions could lead to more dangerous habits as adults.
“We as kids have smaller minds and whenever our parents tell us what to do, we don't think, we just do it because mommy or daddy said so.
“But before parents do that, they should first think of your children and how they are raising them.”
A 15-year-old, who is also part of the centre for abused children’s diversion programme, agreed.
“For me, going with my parents to loot is not a good idea. It's teaching children the wrong thing and taking things that you didn't pay for is wrong,” she said.
The teenager, who also did not want to be named, said incidences of looting will have long term effects, which her generation will have to live with.
“While you are growing up, you think it's a good thing but it will affect us in many ways, we won’t get bursaries to study or even jobs.”
Widespread looting and burning of businesses broke out earlier this month, a day after former president Jacob Zuma started serving a 15-month jail term for being in contempt of court.
The civil unrest which then unfolded in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng has claimed the lives of over 330 people, with the number still climbing.
Thousands have also been arrested for their alleged involvement, with the unrest estimated to cost billions of rand in damage.
While the nation and the world watched the violent scenes unfold, director of the Teddy Bear Clinic Dr Shaheda Omar was particularly concerned about children’s involvement in the looting and warned that this behaviour has far-reaching and devastating consequences.
“This is very concerning because it is teaching our children that there is a ‘quick fix’ or easier way for them to acquire material things and to receive immediate gratification,” she recently told the Saturday Star.
Omar added that youngsters believing that they can get away with taking what they want without paying and in some cases using force to do so, creates the perception that crime and violence is acceptable.
“These children might feel a thrill and sense of excitement from the looting and by seeing that the police are not stopping them, but it has the potential to create a sense of entitlement and that there is no need for them to get an education or earn a living one day.”
In some cases, looting as a youngster could end with a career in crime into their adulthood, Omar warned.
“If children are unable to restrain themselves and they see everyone gets away with it, this could propel them into a lifetime of crime.”
As the country reels from the recent violence, a 16-year-old, who is also part of the Teddy Bear Clinic programme, pleaded with parents to raise responsible children who will go on to be law-abiding citizens.
“As a parent, you are supposed to teach your children how to live with other people but if they steal and loot, they will grow up with that mentality.
“As a child I am advising you (adults) to please try and control these habits,” the child said.