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Mir Mosharref Hossain Pakbir

Children’s Day: Assurance of rights against futile celebration

Children's Day

Mir Mosharref Hossain Pakbir

MNA Editorial Desk: Along with the progress of mankind throughout the world, different humanitarian issues are now of serious priority especially throughout the last few decades. Not only in developed worlds but also in least developed or developing countries like; Bangladesh, these human rights issues are followed with importance today.

Many events around the globe such as wars or child labour have elevated the vitality of children’s rights. In different countries there are many activities to promote the status of children’s rights and one of those activities is celebration of Children’s Day.

In Bangladesh children’s day is celebrated on March 17, the birthday of the father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The day is observed with several activities for quite a period now but unfortunately the children’s rights are still to be ensured and these activities do not bring any significance in the lives of millions of children of Bangladesh till now.
Though the children’s fate in Bangladesh has changed a lot over the years and they now have better access to their basic rights especially education, yet the situation is not satisfactory. The government has initiated several programs like free primary education, free books, subsidized food, free food materials, free access to digital study materials and many others. This has made the parents, chiefly from rural areas, interested to send their children to schools but then too our country is bearing the curse of child labour to a great extent.

In Bangladesh about 30 per cent of the people live in extreme poverty and many families are quite unable to fulfil the basic needs which compel them to engage their children in risky works. About 22 per cent of the children in Bangladesh are illiterate, 30 per cent know how to signature their names, 36 per cent of the children have primary education and only 10 per cent have secondary education.
Approximately 80 per cent of students enrolled in grade one complete primary school. High drop-out rates due to poverty and poor quality of teaching and learning are serious problems for primary schools. Only 46 per cent of boys and 53 per cent of girls attend secondary school. About 50 per cent of primary and 80 per cent of secondary level students drop out of school in Bangladesh.
Different research and studies in recent times also showed that the parents are still to an extent not interested to send their children to schools and if they do, many children do not get the opportunity to have education over the primary level despite efforts from different stakeholders. About 13 per cent of the children of Bangladesh are involved in child labours and they are deprived from education and other child rights. These children mostly get engaged in works related to earning livelihood and their childhood is shattered. At the age of playing and studying, they are pushed into hard labour which does not allow their mental and physical growth as well as to explore their true potential.

Health is another concerning area in terms of children of Bangladesh. Many children of Bangladesh are yet victims to malnutrition. This scenario is very serious in the rural areas of Bangladesh. Different types of pollutions, environment degradation and food adulteration is adding fuel to this problem. The literacy rate of Bangladesh is also hurting the health of children in Bangladesh directly as due to illiteracy the parents are not aware of the threats they are putting their children into. Moreover, issue like child labour is hampering the physical and mental growth of children. On top of that, no access to good medical facility out of major cities of Bangladesh is also creating challenges in ensuring good health of millions of children in our country. If we cannot ensure good health of our future generation in the face of different environmental challenges, the development of this country cannot be sustained and all the good works will go in vein.
Violence towards children is at the peak right now. Children from all classes are facing various forms of physical, sexual and psychological torture and abuse. During the last few years, several incidents of brutality towards children were reported. The social media like facebook is often flooded with videos or images of such violence. Though few of the assaulters were caught and punished, such crimes did not decline in numbers.

Children are being brutalized at their homes, schools and even at works. We only hear about few incidents which are reported or posted in media but most of the incidents are exposed as such. The law enforcement agencies and justice department need to be much more proactive to avoid such incidences in the future but unfortunately we do not see much drives like such till now.
In developed countries, the rights of children are ensured properly by the government. Even the parents are liable to the related authorities for incidents like child abuse while the governments proactively ensure the basic rights of every child. If the parents are unemployed or not financially solvent, the state carries out the responsibilities to ensure proper upbringing of a child.

Schooling, health, food, clothing and shelter are provided by the state. But due to several economic factors, that is not the case in least developed or developing countries like Bangladesh.

Children’s Day is celebrated throughout the world every year. Different nations celebrate their own National Children’s Day on different nationally significant day. Like; we celebrate it on Bangabandhu’s birthday; India celebrates it on their great leader Jawharlal Nehru’s birthday etc. Universal Children’s day is celebrated on November 20 every year. In many countries, it is a holiday. With several activities, the citizens of different nations pay tribute to their children.

The global celebration is mostly through reminding everyone about different rights of the children while focusing o the responsibilities of the parents, teachers, society and the state. Children are informed on their rights through different awareness campaigns. The laws related to children’s welfare are reminded by the governments. There are different programs surrounding the children only. In most of the countries, children’s day is celebrated to communicate the importance of children’s wellbeing for the society and state but we are very sorry to say that, the scenario is not the same in Bangladesh as politics and accumulating benefits remain at the core of this celebration here.

Next year, the 100th birth anniversary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the national children’s Day will be celebrated simultaneously on March 17 under national sponsorship. The government has allocated huge budget for this celebration and a huge committee has been formed for the arrangement of all the programs. But it is uncertain that if the children will remain at the core of these arrangements and if the issues surrounding children will get enough priority.

Bangladesh has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Children (UNCRC) in 1990, and made commitment to fulfil the rights of the Bangladeshi children. The Government of Bangladesh has attempted to implement and apply the principles and provision of the UNCRC in protecting the rights of the child. Despite numerous efforts made by the Government of Bangladesh, till now a large number of children are victim of violence. However, one remarkable outcome is the enactment of the new Children Act, 2013, and this law has reflected on some of the provisions of the UNCRC.

The age of the children has increased from 16 to 18 but yet, no initiative has taken for harmonizing the definition of ‘children’ in different national laws. Not having the rules of the Act, implication of this Act is not in practice yet and thus it is losing its credibility. In the light of the UNCRC provision, this Children Act 2013 has aimed for some ambitious initiatives such as- the formation of the Child Welfare Boards at all level of the country, setting up of Child’s Affairs Desk at the police station, and appointment of the relevant officials, children courts, family institutional care and few more.

We all need to be aware of the rights of every child of our country. Celebrating children’s day with so many programs unrelated to children is not going to help the fate of the children of Bangladesh. The government must ensure that the children and parents are reminded of child rights. The children should be pre-informed on possible challenges and whom to contact for solutions. The state must carry out such huge tasks like ensuring children’s rights in Bangladesh for the sake of country’s future.

From next National Children’s Day, few steps should be taken. Firstly, every children of Bangladesh can be sent a greetings card and a gift from the Prime Minister with a message on their rights and the theme of that year’s Children’s Day. We know it is tough as we do not have proper data of children but if from each upazila, this enlistment drive is given, we may even have a concrete database of children. Secondly, different government establishments like; cantonments, military museum, other museums etc. should be made completely open for the children. Thirdly, every school must arrange different programs engaging children on Children’s Day. The focus of all these programs is to make the children feel that there are some arrangements surrounding them and to be aware of their rights.

We hope significance of Children’s Day will not be limited in seminars and cultural functions. Rather it should be about engaging children in protecting their own future. We hope basic rights of every child are served properly in Bangladesh and then we can be assured that Bangladesh has a great potential and all our developments and progress can be sustained as we reach new heights in the globe.

The writer is Chief Patron of Bangabandhu Shishu Kishore Mela, Editor at Kishore Bangla andVice-Chairman, Democracy Research Center (DRC)

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