Signs by the roadside

Suncica Stojanovska Zoksimovska

To take children from parents for abusing them, put them under the protection of the state in order to make decent people out of them, and to plunge into a vicious circle of sexual abuse, prostitution or human trafficking, shows a complete collapse of the entire state system, which, as rule, fails when it needs to protect the young, the weak and powerless.

To have a 10, 12, 13-year-old child in front of you, who says that she has been raped, who gives you specific names, and still let the abuse continue without punishment for the perpetrators, an alarm turns on for a big and serious problem with the institutions, every single one of them. Also, about how many of those who work there are professional, agile and committed to the work they do (not) do. No matter how much anyone wants to escape responsibility, the facts say this: a Roma girl (although the ethnicity is not important in this case), was taken away from her parents for five years, “moved around” for another 7-8 years through all doors of the rotten social system, and ended in the most unpopular institutions for children with educational and social problems “May 25” and “Ranka Milanovic”. These are the homes that are always closed to the public, but appear regularly in the news under these titles: “Two protégés from “Ranka Milanovic” disappeared”, or “A protégé from “May 25” fell from the fourth floor.” The services of “25 May” reported R.I. as missing nine times. Police have filed criminal charges for serious crimes, such as sexual assault and rape, for men three times older than RI. Only ten days after the last report to the Public Prosecutor’s Office, instead of being adequately taken care of, R.I was taken into unconsciousness at the hospital in Veles. Then they took her to an abortion and announced that there are indications that she is a victim of traffickers! State institutions are those who did not prevent it, but continued the opportunities with which the horror became a daily life of the child. It is also the social system that we have in Macedonia, and those who need such a system to protect them the most felt this system on their own skin. Despite the reforms announced by the authorities, despite the grants paid by various experts and non-governmental organizations, all we have is dead letters on paper translated into laws as effects. Outside, on the street, there are still children begging (the begging was to be completely eradicated long ago), drugged or abused by criminal gangs, who knows how and for what. And those children who go to daycare centers, are left by themselves after 16 o’clock, and to the conscience of their parents. Some of them are placed the state in homes like “May 25” and “Ranka Milanovic”. Are there any educational and social activities in both houses, because we are talking about “child care and child education”? What do these children get there, apart from bed and food? What behavior do they learn and from whom do they learn? Does anyone take care of where and with whom those children go, after they leave the institution arbitrarily? These are the homes for which there are whispers of the terrible things happening behind the closed doors: male and female children of crucial age sleep in the same rooms, use the same bathrooms, learn how to lie, to steal etc. They also have suicidal attempts, while their behavior is seen by employees as something normal, which they cannot or do not want to further engage in preventing it.

So, the “Signs by the roadside”, as the Nobel laureate Ivo Andric entitled his masterpiece, has long demonstrated how the children are being protected under the protection of the state. But someone with power, and power to change things did not want to see them. That is why it is a common hypocrisy and alleged concern, for instance, of the Union of Women of VMRO-DPMNE, who demand responsibility from the current government, and they keep silent that this same home, with the same director, and the same children, worked in their own time. And they become caught up in political necrophilia instead of giving support to the victim and loudly seeking to punish the perpetrators.
On the other hand, the current “system” has the names and surnames of each individual – of the guardian, of the social worker, of the prosecutor … of all who have not prevented the abuses against a minor under state protection. Therefore, the moral resignation of the chairman of “May 25” sounds well for the revolted public, but will not solve the problems. Nor will the conclusion that the need for better coordination between all institutions is evident and the establishment of a system that will truly protect children from social risk. And it is known and, unfortunately, most obviously when a case ends tragically. This “system” must specifically pinpoint and punish those responsible for leaving children unprotected in a social care institution, and to punish the perpetrators, duly indicated by the Ministry of Interior. In this “system,” a basic sense of humanity, empathy and justice must be worked out, while deinstitutionalization is awaited as a more humane measure of child care in social risk.

Anything less than that is torturing the weakest. Or, as Andric wrote: “Between the fear that something would happen and the hope that still it wouldn’t, there is much more space than one thinks. On that narrow, hard, bare and dark space a lot of us spend their lives.”