Colombo Telegraph

Who Is To Blame?

By Sirini Jayawardene

Last two weeks our hearts were crying for the little son who departed from this world by accident. Most of us didn’t know him or his family, but we cried for him too. We heard stories about his family, we inquired from friends who attended the funeral, and we discussed and talked about it. We saw his picture in the newspapers, and we knew what he looked like. We still think about him and ask God that it should not happen to even our worst enemy.

Lots of news websites carried this story. We read them and we read the comments too. Most were sorrowful messages condoling and blessing him ‘Nirwana’ and there were few hilarious, like blaming the government for giving low quality equipment to schools.

There was lot of blame going here and there and nowhere too; the school, the teachers, the other students, the school gardener and the parents and the government also in some cases.

All news items carried a similar story. We knew it was a terrible accident. But come to think of this, didn’t we play with such equipment when we were kids? Wasn’t there heavy rollers lying outside our school premises before? Wasn’t there other equipment lying everywhere when building construction was going on? Haven’t any of you played with this type of equipment before?

We have. There were a number of people who said they too played with these rollers in their various schools. This hand roller was something which was found lying outside on the pitch on most boys schools in Sri Lanka.

What is the difference between then and now? Why would such a tragic accident happen now when the kids are more educated in number of things even if they are in Grade 4, than 20 years ago?

Our present day kids are very smart. Even a kid who is 3 years, know how to operate a mobile phone. They know even to play a game on a mobile phone. They observe everything that the adults do, and within minutes they know how to operate any electronic gadget.  They are smarter than any kid 20 years ago.

Most of our families have one kid now. In my son’s class there are only 5 kids who have a brother or a sister. There are two kids who have more than two kids in the family. The rest of the class is only one child in the family. 20 years ago, in my class there was 1 kid who was the only child. We envied her!

In the families which have only one kid, both parents are working. In most cases the parents get back home late in the evening. Either the child is with grandparents or with a maid at home.

The kids are pampered and protected while the parents are at home. Everything, is thought by the mother and father. Nothing left for the kid. Parents don’t have much time to spend with the kid, but the kid is showered with anything and everything. There is spare money and what the kid needs the parents buy. The kid does not have to bother about creativity or cost cutting. Education is the priority. If the parents can afford a computer, most of the homework gets generated out of the computer. No reference to Mother Nature, books or newspapers, but every reference from the internet searches. The kid does not share anything, studies alone, gets individual coaching, and does not have anybody to play with. The kid does not have much individuality; quite selfish. Don’t know to cope up with the dangers of the normal day to day life nor the safety measures. In simple words no common sense. Not their fault. We brought them up like that.

If we compare in our offices, the young generation is extremely tech savvy. They are brilliant with computers or any technology. I am sure they call us dumb!

But if you compare the day to day activities, the young are smart in getting things done. But when things don’t work out, we find that they are not very smart in thinking of options. If they think of options, they are costly. 20 years ago, when we were young employees, we were coached to do our daily work. We did them manually. If things did not work out, we thought of how it will affect the organization and think of options. These options were very simple ones. We knew spending money for something unexpected is not acceptable. We looked for answers from our friends. We saved items to use for another day. My father, who is a retired government officer, tells me that they used the reverse side of the unimportant letters they get into their office used as the office copy, to use under the original letterhead and the carbon. Their Office Assistant reversed the envelopes to use for official letters to other government offices. In my time, it was not so. But we saved toffee wrappers, the silver paper on chocolates, the picture post cards or any greeting cards received. These were used for any event later.  We used them for school work. We used them for scrap books. We recycled them and made greeting cards out of them. We had to use these, because our parents could not afford to buy these items for us, because we had more kids at home. Also, only one parent was working. There was no fancy stuff available in the shops for our use. Because of all these problems, we had to be creative and innovative in using what little we had into something of use once again. Therefore, 20 years ago, the kids had to use their minds and heads more than the kids now. We used scissors, we used knives or blades instead of pencil sharpeners, and we knew how to use them and the dangers of using them.  We saw our parents using these, and we had to use them all the time for our work. We did not have internet to copy and paste, we cut our greeting cards, magazine pages, newspapers.

Because of the lack of facilities, kids had to learn a lot of tasks which might be called difficult by kids today. We used hammers, mammoties, spades and we even lit the garbage pile in the garden. Our grandparents, neighbors, parents all did this work. They also taught us how to be safe while using them. They did not chase us away. I remember using the small iron pipe and blowing to light our hearth when I was younger than small Senitha.

Therefore, we too played with this roller long time ago. But the older students chased us away or the gardener in the school chased us away. We did not talk back at them. We ran away. When nobody was around we played with it again. We knew that it was heavy. We knew that nobody should go to the front. If someone went the rest of us would shout at the person. But we rolled it too and mind you, rolling was more fun on the slope. We knew the seriousness of rolling this back and forth, because we knew it was prohibited. We knew that it can injure us. We did it carefully. We did it responsibly. Why? Because at home, at school, in the society it was such, that we had more common sense about the dangers of the world. We never stayed inside after we returned from school. We played with corroded tins and a ball. We never ever cut our fingers to a tin. A tin never hit us on the face when we broke them hard with a ball. It was not luck. We knew that we needed to be careful. Be safe. We listened to adults; maybe with reluctance we obeyed the commands of the older siblings. We never talked back at them. Therefore, the older ones always gave us advice. Not always the family members, anyone, maybe even the neighbors. Sometimes, we have been advised by just strangers walking on the road. But with shame or guilt we listened and obeyed their commands.

We knew how to handover a knife to another. We knew the dangers of using sharp tools. We knew that you must never stand in front of a moving swing. We knew when a Javelin is thrown, nobody should stand within the vicinity. The others students made sure, that rest of the people stand way outside the range.

The blame must be taken by the whole society for bringing up a generation who does not know to live outside the boundaries of technology and education; to live with the normal day to day things in life; to take responsibility for their actions; to listen to what elders say; to think of options, which may not always cost any money; to know the good and bad of any equipment or tool; to just live with Mother Nature.

Little Senitha and his friends were clueless of the dangers of the roller. Nobody told them to stop. Maybe because now days, the older kids cannot advice the smaller kids, they will tell them to go fly a kite! After it happened, the little friends did not know what to do. They did not know that it is damaging to be on the front path and it will injure the person. The small boy who was fun and jolly, suddenly pinned on the wall, they thought he will get up like Tom in ‘Tom and Jerry’ and walk back to them.  They didn’t know what to do. They did not go to the Masters who were training the drill. Why? They knew they had done something wrong, and something terrible has happened. They knew to play but they did not know, to play safe because the society did not teach them that. They have seen busy parents; they have seen adults who were avoiding problems, issues. They have not played outside at home and faced with problems, which their parents would help to solve.  They did not know what to do.

It is the society who forgot to teach our young the common sense in life, who must take the blame for this tragedy.

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