Kauhajoki: Finnish Childcare Structure to be Over Hauled
THE tragedy at Kauhajoki, following on so closely to that at Jokela, has caused Finnish authorites to look more closely at country's childcare structure.
A report just two months ago by the Mannerhein Child Welfare Reform Group expressed concern that the Finniosh child was oftena lonely one, with both parents at work, compared to the Spanish or the Italian one. (See my story here Finnish Children Eat Alone,Travel Alone & Wake Up Alone Say Child Welfare Reform Group:
Once again the Finns are plunged into a frenzy of the navel-gazing that has become a pastime, in a country that has a unique language and position in Europe.
A national student survey published today showed the scale of the problem: one in ten felt that they did not have any friends and the same number said that they never discussed problems with ther parents.
For Juha Mieto, the town’s Conservative MP, the explanations were simple — a breakdown in traditional rural family life as Finland struggles to adjust to the modern world — and the answers lay in a more structured life.
“This arose from the malaise in Finnish society and it is up to us adults in Finland to take responsibility for our children,” said Mr Mieto, who knew several of the victims’ families.
“Parents should not just give their kids fifty euros at the weekend and ignore them, and Finnish schools have become too liberal and give students too much free time.”
Often portrayed as taciturn, hard-drinking, sauna-loving and self-absorbed, the Finnish male traditionally likes nothing more than an evening of ice hockey on the TV or a day spent tracking and shooting a moose with his hunting rifle. The internet has added an extra distraction that for some young men has put them in touch with a shadowy counter-culture obsessed with heavy metal and extreme violence.
Saari, a catering student, was said to have conspired online with Pekka-Eric Auvinen, who shot eight dead at a school in the Helsinki suburb of Jokela last November, and to have been on the same internet team for games of Battlefield Number Two.
Matti Rimpela, a professor of welfare in Helsinki, said: “Finnish society has gone through a period of very rapid change. Just 50 years ago we were a rural countryside society and within a few years we have moved into the post-industrial information society. It is perhaps the most rapid change of its kind in the world.
“In the Fifties we had to pay a lot of compensation to the Soviet Union after the Second World War and the only way we could survive was to take women into the workforce. Now we have one of the highest rates of people working outside of the home in the world.
“To cope with that we should have a very well-functioning network but since the 1970s the focus has shifted from the family to the welfare of middle-aged people and now the elderly. Welfare services for young people have not been developed to match changes in society.
“In Finland, women are more able to talk about their feelings and emotions. For men it is difficult. A simple explanation is that in the rural Finnish society, men had to survive in a hard working environment and were often working alone. Urban working life is very new in Finland.”
But he also blamed the organisation of school classes for the alienation of some young people. “At secondary school from the age of 13 there are topic-based lessons, meaning they may study in six different classes. In this system it is possible that they can become a bit lost without coming to anyone’s notice, which is what we saw in this Kauhajoki case.”
He added: “Finland has long had a suicide phenomenon where they kill themselves and their family members. This new phenomenon I would explain by the internet, where they can develop their own evil code with other guys in other continents.”
Jukka Makela, a child psychologist at the National Research Development Centre for Welfare and Health in Helsinki, agreed: “There are some elements in Finnish culture which I hope will be addressed.
“This kind of extended suicide, killing one’s family and oneself, is not extraordinary in the Finnish culture. It is the idea that there is no way to be socially acceptable or to be part of the so-called optimistic future, and extended suicide comes from this. With a family, it is often the feeling that they are partly responsible. Here [in Kauhajoki] there is the idea that humanity is responsible.”