Amie Buhari wonders whether we are all ‘innocent’ bystanders? 

school 2

Do you remember that old hymn we used to sing in primary school assemblies?

”Would you walk by on the other side, when someone called for aid? Would you walk by on the other side, or would you be afraid?”

Well, this song has been going through my mind since the horrible, traumatic, racist and frankly evil incident which took place just outside the Thomas Knyvett School at 2.30pm in Ashford, Surrey on Monday 6th February. that led to four arrests. 

Many people walked by but not on the other side to help. They chose not to hear the call for aid; those who filmed the beating of a 15-year old school girl, the people on the street, the drivers in the cars. I can only sadly assume they were indeed afraid, but the reality is that they are probably and disturbingly so, de-sensitised to the very common violent acts from one (or in this case three people) to another that we see so often. Either way, the fact that they did nothing shows the serious decay of care in our society. We are all responsible for the safety of every young person. I’m reminded of the passage in Matthew 18:6-7 where Jesus says about children:

”If anyone causes one of these little ones – those who believe in me – to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung round their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble!”

By doing nothing, we are complicit to the problem, accessories to the crime. We are part of the cause. How can the risk be too great to step in, even when it is a child who is in danger?

So, if those who were around didn’t help, surely the teachers from the school the incident happened right outside wouldn’t delay? But it took them two minutes to appear, stop, watch and finally casually break up the assault, like it was two kids play fighting in the playground. As a youth practitioner for 30 years and my very short stint as a supply teacher, there is no situation where I have seen a young person in danger, and not immediately stepped in to intervene. It is our duty, as teachers to ensure the safety of our young people whilst in our care.

Those of us who take the decision to specifically teach/pastor/support will be held into account more severely than others. James warned us in the bible that ‘Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.’ And these teachers at this school who failed so spectacularly to effectively care for their student in a time of need should be judged on their behaviour.

Where was their empathy and care for this girl as her braids were being pulled out of her head, and her body kicked repeatedly? Where was their concern when she and her parents complained previously about racist bullying from those living around the school? Where was their safeguarding procedures for the safety of their students for entering and exiting the school? These are not teachers worthy of the title. What example have they set for the young people they teach? To ignore, to not stop but walk on by, to not help the vulnerable?

Some will argue that it is not a teacher’s role to intervene outside the school gates, but as long as that young person is in your uniform, you have a duty of care. We pray the young girl gets the proper care she needs from her school, and that teachers are called to give account, if not more for their actions or lack of.