Cape Town - Please pray that the shooting will stop. This was the request of 6-year-old Jermaine Taylor to a church group who visited him days after he was shot in the arm on the way to his first day of school last week.
His parents have been trying to cheer him up, but he finds the sound of gunfire deeply traumatic.
“There is only so much we can do,” says Cecilia Taylor, Jermaine’s mother. “Gunshots are loud and the sound travels far.”
When shots crack out in the night, as they did outside the family’s Clarkes Estate flat on Friday, Jermaine looks up in shock and fear. Taylor and her husband Jerome ignore the bangs in an attempt to set their child at ease.
“We try to remain calm. Jerome picked up the remote and put the television’s volume up. It helped to drown the sound of the gunfight outside, if only slightly,” Taylor said.
Jermaine is still recovering at home after being hit by a stray bullet outside the gates of Matroos Holy Trinity RC Primary School in Elsies River last Wednesday.
Instead of spending the first day of Grade 1 in class with his friends, he was taken to Tygerberg Hospital. On Monday, he saw a provincial Education Department psychologist.
“I’m only going back on Monday,” said a smiling Jermaine.
His mother said Jermaine’s apparent cheerfulness belied trauma that had come out in the form of regular tears. When a church group visited Jermaine on Sunday and asked him what he wanted them to pray for, he replied: “I would like to pray that the shooting must stop.”
“That really broke my heart,” said Cecilia Taylor. “It showed us that he understands a lot of what had happened. But, he has also been brave and there are times when he is happy and playing with his little sister.”
A 17-year-old youth was also wounded. This teenager, apparently the target of the attack, gave police the name of the gunman, which led to the arrest of a 27-year-old man.
Yet, after consulting prosecutors, police released the man without charge because the 17-year-old victim of the shooting “disappeared” after being discharged from hospital, a source close to the investigation at Elsies River police station said.
Meanwhile, provincial Education Department spokeswoman Bronagh Casey said the Safe Schools Programme had discussed security arrangements with the principal of Holy Trinity: “(They have) arranged for a security guard to be placed at the school. A safety plan was formulated, whereby learners are to stay within the school buildings at all times.
“In other words, they are to remain in the quad area until the situation outside in the community stabilises. They are also monitoring access to the school. The police are also visibly patrolling around the school.”
Police have asked the teenager and other eye witnesses to the shooting of Jermaine to contact the investigating officer, Captain Dean Kiewiets, at 021 928 1400 or 082 302 2952.
Youngsters need counselling after trauma
Berenice Daniels, the provincial Department of Education’s director of specialised education support, says young people need counselling as soon as possible after a traumatic event so as to avoid the possibility of long-term psychological harm. But there is no blanket protocol that can be applied in every situation.
“Professionals like psychologists, social workers and counsellors need to assess each situation and establish the facts so as to determine the level of support that is required,” she said.
“If possible, parents should be contacted as a first priority to inform them of the situation, and to involve them in the rehabilitation process.”
Depending on the age and development of the child, parents should keep their child informed about what is happening during the counselling process, and should explain it to them in terms that they can understand.
“Parents should also provide their children with constant reassurance of their love and support, and also talk to their child about their feelings regarding the incident,” Daniels said.
“A special effort should be made to spend more time with their children at this time, and to try to ascertain whether their child requires any additional professional support.
“It is unfortunately possible that exposure to traumatic events in childhood may increase a host of later changes in cognition, affect behaviour, neuro-physiology and physiology, but these will depend on a wide variety of factors. Having an intact, supportive and nurturing family appears to be a strong protective factor.”