A few days ago, I came across a heart-wrenching picture of a child sleeping between the graves of his parents. Reportedly, the image is from Syria. But this is not an article about Syria. I do not know what is happening there, since I no longer believe the media. I can only comment on what is happening around me. I often see children playing on the street outside my home. Upper-class toddlers, wearing similar branded clothing, going to the same school, in cars of roughly the same value, and supervised by maids who are usually children themselves. In this particular scenario, four children were joined by a fifth; a son of the neighbouring domestic help, wearing cheap slippers and shalwar kameez — trying to race his hand-me-down toy car with the other four’s brand news Scotties and battery operated BMW’s and Range Rovers. The kids look at the maids, whose body language is extremely unwelcoming towards the fifth child. The four children take their cue from the supervising adults and ignore the child. The fifth child tries for a bit and then retreats to play alone. An educational consultant devoted to educational reforms decides to put her money where her mouth is — by taking her maid’s daughter to an Islamabad private school, pays for all her expenses, picks and drops her to school, and attends all the Parent Teacher meetings. To sensitise children against abuse but to teach them elitism is hardly useful For the school, she is the parent, although she does not legally adopt her. After four years, my friend takes the younger sister to get enrolled. The school puts its foot down, explicitly stating that “we cater to a certain socio-demographic. We cannot have children of maids as students.” This is despite the fact that the school is receiving the full fee from my friend. So, in short, the school is profiting as much from her as from the children of the ‘acceptable’ socio-demographic. When challenged, the school further went on to show written complaints from parents about the child’s lack of social skills at evening birthday parties, since the little girl is at least still enrolled at the school. At a social gathering, a child is wearing shalwar kameez. The host remarks, “He looks like a village boy. Why are you compelling him to be different? This is regressive. Our children are the iPad generation. You have to be comfortable competing with the west.” Meaning that shalwar kameez is what keeps our country regressive and underdeveloped? Children are entering the school filing past the security guards at the door and the cleaning staff inside the school. One thoughtful parent makes it a point to have his child shake hands with the security guard posted at the main gate, then with the guard outside the door and the cleaner who is standing in the reception area ensuring that all the water coolers have mineral water bottles. One day, when both parents accompany the child, the mother admonishes the husband who is encouraging such behaviour. “Do you even know if these people wash their hands after using the bathroom?” Recently, light has been shed on the prevalence of child sexual abuse in this country. A curriculum to sensitise children is being developed in the private sector. The draft teaching material is rampant with examples of drivers, gardeners and domestic servants as sexual predators. Figures tell us that most perpetrators are people that the victims trust, who can be anyone regardless of social class. To sensitise children against abuse but to teach them elitism is hardly useful. According to The National Centre of Crime, sexual predators who target children are overwhelmingly male, ranging from adolescents to the elderly. However, some perpetrators are female. It is estimated that women are the abusers in about 14 percent of cases where boys are the victim and six percent of cases in which girls are the victims. Approximately one-third of offenders are juveniles themselves. 23 percent of reported cases of child sexual abuse are perpetrated by individuals under the age of 18. Only 14 percent of children who have been victims of sexual abuse were violated by an unknown perpetrator. 60 percent of children are abused by someone in their social circle. Hence the phrase ‘Stranger Danger’ is misleading. Children are cruel. That is why they grow up to the cruel adults. They bring up crueller children. The cruelty comes from the insensitivity internalised during childhood through role modelling. Thus the cycle continues and no amount of memes, Facebook feel-good positive thoughts of the day and Juma Mubarak’s later in life can reverse this. Only critical introspection can. Ask yourself, did you critically think about your social norms today? The writer is a development consultant; E-mail: email@example.com; @gulminabilal Published in Daily Times, April 3rd 2018.