Monday, 30 November 2009
Lessons in Citizenship
It's a worthy project I suppose, aimed at getting kids to analyse truth and distortion in the media. They also have to look at crime statistics in Haringey, and work out which crimes are most likely in different parts of the borough.
But today I'd much rather they were looking at a true story of three teenagers in the neighbouring borough of Hackney.
I've written before about the killing of Jahmal Mason-Blair, stabbed to death as he tried to break up a fight in Hackney. Today his killer was named and sentenced to six years in detention.
Michael Ematuwo was only 14, just 5ft tall when he went with Jahmal to try and retrieve his bike from an older boy. He was hit over the head with a stick by the boy, and pulled out a large flick knife. Lashing out he accidentally slashed Jahmal's throat. Jahmal had been trying to shield him and stop the fight.
Jahmal's family told the court: “The impact has been overwhelming. We have been physically, emotionally and spiritually drained for what seems like forever.
“The knowledge that such a loving, kind and talented young man will never fulfil his wonderful potential is almost too much to bear.
“We want the boy responsible, and the community as a whole, to realise the long-lasting and appalling effect caused by one boy choosing to carry a knife.
“Only by our communities looking out for one another will we be able to put an end to the needless deaths of our sons and brothers.”
Michael Ematuwo burst into tears when he was sentenced to six years for manslaughter. His counsel asked the judge to show mercy, due to his age and the impact that a sentence will have on him.
She said: “He had no intention of causing any harm to anyone on that night.”
This story makes me shiver. First because it feels so close to home - Jahmal was a friend of someone I know from my son's school. Second because the story is so horribly similar to some of the events I've imagined in When I Was Joe.
But most of all because of the pointless loss of so much potential - beautiful Jahmal, a talented young footballer - described by the judge as 'a bright star in the lives of his family.' His former friend and killer, Michael Ematuwo, who will spend his adolesence in prison and forever have to live with what he's done.
I hope that citizenship classes in the future will teach teenagers about Jahmal and Michael, and encourage them to imagine themselves in Michael's place, crying in court as he contemplates the huge price paid for his stupid thoughtlessness.