In a suburb of Naples, Ponticelli, in Italy there is a school called San Giuseppe Bosco. This school is attended by young children, the future of this lovely little town. Ponticelli is that quarter where several Roma camps reside and unfortunately they were been under attack A few years ago, by what has been called a xenophobic mob. It is reported that a gypsy girl had tried to steal a baby and this lead to the camp being burned. This is bad enough, but wait for it, the kids in the school started drawing pictures illustrating camps being burned and people chatting “fight, fight”!!!
The teachers in the school then set the children a task to draw how they felt about the persecution that was going on on their doorsteps.
“The gypsies steal children to transplant their organs” wrote one child, another writing “this was the right thing to do. The gypsies wouldn’t go when asked nicely so we had to get tough with them”.
The schools headmaster, Mariano Coppola, at the time blamed the children’s parents for their racism and claimed that some of the children may have witnessed, first hand, the attacks on the camp. He is quoted as saying “Their teachers were working with them to help them understand what really happened, and to clearly show them that these violent acts should not be repeated”.
Over here it South Africa, with our ever growing refugee population from other African countries the problem is equally relevant. And not only with foreigners. Our current political situation with ALL political parties frequently playing the race card is bound to have an effect on our children and how they see foreign kids and kids not of the same skin colour as they.
It’s bad enough when people grow up and form these kinds of prejudges and start acting with violence, but when children come out with it we really are in trouble.
More has to be done on a nationwide level to educate people, especially children, about the realities of a multi-cultural society and how to respect everyone, regardless of their social class, ethnicity or anything else.
Time to REALLY start the healing South Africa… Before it is too late.