Camila Batmanghelidjh, the inspirational founder and director of Kids Company, appeared on the BBC’s ‘This Week’ programme last night and made some excellent points about the causes of last year’s riots. 3Di attended two of Camila’s sessions at the Guardian Open Weekend, and we’ll say more about them in a future blog.
As to the riots, Camila said, “I’m blaming the politicians” as she went on to describe the thousands of children who live with abusive adults and/or attend abusive or unsupportive schools, whilst receiving little or no attention from professionals who are supposed to care for them, whom politicians are aware of, and yet have done nothing radical, substantial or effective to alter their situation.
Camila also said, “We keep on funding social care structures that are not fit for purpose.” Plainly this is a very major issue that requires in-depth analysis and a massive determination to change, once and for all. Obviously schools, as well as social services and health services, must be seen as part of the overall care structure.
She also said, “It’s not about poverty and unemployment”, which makes the point that there are many children living in poverty but whose parents nevertheless provide them with love or at least ‘good enough’ care, as do their schools, to the extent that those children are not unhappy, disaffected or at risk. On the other hand, there are many thousands of middle class children as well as working class children that are neglected and abused, and who are offered little or nothing in the way of support.
It was good to hear Michael Portillo on the programme praising Camila’s work with children, schools and families, and it was distressing to NOT hear Alan Johnson saying similar things. Could this be to do with the fact that Mr Portillo is no longer an MP, whereas Mr Johnson is still an active politician?
From the BBC News website:
The founder of the charity Kids Company, which deals with some of the most vulnerable young people, said Britain was in a period of “child bashing” when looking back over the riots in English cities last summer.
From the scene of the riots at Clapham Junction, Camilla Batmanghelidjh said some services were at breaking point and unable to help the families of disturbed children as she took issue with the findings of the riots inquiry report
Watch Camila’s filmed report here:
One of the other highlights of the Guardian’s Open Weekend was Gary Younge‘s session with Linton Kwesi Johnson. According to Linton the conversation needed to focus on “race, rebellion, resistance and riots”.
The key point made by Linton was that “nothing has changed since the uprisings of 1981”. To begin the session he read aloud a piece which the Guardian has now published on its website. (A shortened version was printed in the paper.)
Trust between the police and the black community is still broken
Last summer’s riots showed that between the police and young black people, little has changed since the 1980s
I am often asked why I started to write poetry. The answer is that my motivation sprang from a visceral need to creatively articulate the experiences of the black youth of my generation, coming of age in a racist society. Some of my early work dealt with fratricidal violence and internecine warfare, not too dissimilar to the mindless gang warfare of today.
Back in those early days when I began my apprenticeship as a poet, I also tried to voice our anger, spirit of defiance and resistance in a Jamaican poetic idiom.
If any politicians are still having difficulty understanding why the riots occured, they would do well to read a poem written by Linton which he read out to the audience at the Guardian open weekend:
Tings An’ Times
by Linton Kwesi Johnson:
blinded by resplendent lite of love
dazzled by di firmament of freedom –
im couldn deteck deceit
all wen it kick im in im teet
im couldn cry khorupshon
an believe inna man
im nevvah know bout cleek
im did umble an meek
im nevvah know intrigue
im nevvah inna dat deh league
im nevvah andahstan
dat on di road to sawshalism
yu could buck-up nepotism
im wife dangerous
im bredda tretcheroous
an im kozn very vicious
now like a fragile fragment af lite
trapped inna di belly a di daak nite
like a bline man stupified an dazed
lost an alone in a mystical maze
watch im driffin craus di oweshan of life
widout n ruddah nar hankah nar sail
Apologies to Linton for any typos etc – we’ll correct them as soon as possible. To read more of this poem you can do an internet search on one of the many ‘lyrics’ sites – but be prepared for less than accurate renditions.
Better still – go out and purchase Linton’s books of poetry.
Stupified and dazed . . . drifting across the ocean of life . . . without a rudder, an anchor or a sail . . .
This sums up perfectly the situation of so many of our young people – even some of those with five or more GCSEs, but still with very little social intelligence; even some of those with ‘A’ levels, but with very little in the way of emotional intelligence; even some of those with degrees, but not much spiritual intelligence, and hardly a creative or imaginative bone in their bodies.
Linton had spoken in his session about the failures of the education system, and 3Di wanted to be clear about what he sees as systemic failures, and therefore we spoke with him briefly after the session. We asked him whether he meant the failure to achieve certain standards in tests and exams by a particular age, or, as 3Di sees it, the failure to provide a rounded and balanced education that enables pupils to learn how to learn and how to think critically and creatively, plus the failure to offer them a proper development of all the intelligences and not just the academic.
Linton’s reply was succinct – “I agree with you entirely.”
To be very clear about our position – we think a good school enables its pupils to achieve well in tests and exams, to the best of their capability, without undue pressure or excessive teaching to the tests, and without narrowing down the curriculum, AS WELL AS enabling every pupil to develop ALL of his or her intelligences.
It’s our belief that young people who enjoy their school experiences, who have good individual support and who feel properly listened to, and who are offered individualised learning experiences, do NOT feel alienated from their school and its community, and have respect for their teachers and other adults.
It’s our belief that young people who have well developed personal intelligence (self knowledge, self respect, self confidence, etc), social intelligence (empathy, respect for others, etc), emotional intelligence (self control, self restraint, etc) and spiritual intelligence (abhorence of violence and a clear understanding of human values and virtues) do NOT commit terrible crimes and acts of revenge which can only lead to personal degredation and suffering.
Such youngsters are NOT lacking in rudders, anchors or sails.