New Delhi, November 21
On World Children’s Day yesterday, a day of advocacy and action for children, by children and with children, the Parliamentarians’ Group for Children (PGC) in partnership with UNICEF India, convened a virtual ‘Children’s Parliament’ in the presence of 35 Members of Parliament, including the PGC Chairperson MP Shri Gaurav Gogoi and Conveners Dr. Sanjay Jaiswal and Dr. Heena Gavit.
Eminent speakers in the session included Shri Indevar Pandey, Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India, Mr Shombi Sharp, UN Resident Coordinator in India and Yasumasa Kimura, Representative, UNICEF India.
Representing 1,500 children from 16 states, 14 children have passionately shared their experiences in learning loss, and the challenges they faced because of prolonged school closure through the pandemic. Children and young people presented a nine-point Charter of Demands to the Parliamentarians urging them to take actions to support their learning recovery.
With safe reopening of schools across the country after more than a year, the children’s Charter of Demands focuses attention on safe school reopening as well as equitable access to online learning, reducing the size of the syllabus and prioritizing vaccination for children. Sharing of the Children’s Charter of Demands was followed by a question and answer, open discussion.
Kritika, a 15-year-old from Delhi who facilitated the presentation of the Charter of Demands mentioned, “My peers and I have faced various challenges on education. Today we feel grateful that Parliamentarians have come here to listen to our demands.”
Extended closure of schools affected not only education but also children’s physical and psychological wellbeing. Online learning was not accessible to all.
According to UNICEF’s rapid assessment conducted in six states in 2020 – Assam, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Gujarat, and Uttar Pradesh, 76 per cent of parents of children between the ages of 5-13 years, and 80 per cent of adolescents between 14-18 years, reported learning less compared to when they were learning in school.
A UNICEF survey on the state of learning during the pandemic had shown that just over 10 per cent of students surveyed had no access to a smartphone in or outside of their homes. It was also found that close to 45 per cent of the children who did not use any remote learning opportunities were altogether unaware of any resource from which they could learn. This underlines the critical importance of schools as a physical space for learning.
Welcoming the Parliamentarians, children and guests, Gaurav Gogoi reiterated, that World Children’s Day reminds all us of our commitments and duty to ensure that children have their hopes, dreams, and aspirations intact.
Addressing the children as leaders of tomorrow and the future of India, he said, “As we move forward, I want you to know that we have your best interests at heart. It is my sincere hope that the takeaways from today will guide us to work even harder for the same.”
PGC is a platform that convenes, informs and engages Members of Parliament across states and across political affiliations on children's rights. Recognizing education as the central element impacting human capital, PGC has been at the forefront of recommending strategies for mitigating the learning crisis.
Delivering his address, the Indevar Pandey, Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India said, “The children participating in today’s session are showing promise to be the leaders of tomorrow. They are the changemakers who are going to be shaping our future. I want to reaffirm that the Government is working to create a world in which every child has a safe and healthy childhood. The Government is committed to protecting your future and each of us works to ensure that no child is left behind.” TNS
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