Early in the week I had the opportunity of attending a community meeting at which a number of community leaders (the school principals, community pastors and a handful of others) from two "warring" communities had come together to try and develop a strategy to claim back their communities from violence. The communities together probably cover little more ground than a large city block but the stories were chilling. The discussions considered who in the communities should be involved in developing the solutions and there was consensus on the need to include The Influential Men. This is a euphemism for the Dons or gangsters, those who carry and supply the guns, recruit the youth and control the community, it feels like a pretty benign title for those who are responsible for so much destruction.
Other activities have included discussions about how to support the theme the National Child Committee has adopted for the year... All I Want is a Chance to Grow Up. In fairness most children do grow up, and many are successful. This is not a country where famine and drought or disease and war are claiming children by the thousands, but it is a country in which children die needlessly as a result of the influence of those Influential Men, a society in which the majority are stymied by the threat of a renegade minority and the consequences are infiltrating wider and deeper into the social fabric. This is manifest in the behaviour of children at school. The Manager of the Youth Programme at DRF talks about how different her experience at high school was from the experiences she is seeing now. She is 24 and left high school six years ago! In six years there has been a major shift in the schools and there is real fear that too many of the youth are out of control.