Children's millennium monument unveiled

Stabroek News
March 16, 2000

The dedication ceremony of the National Commission on the Rights of the Child (NCRC) Children's Millennium Monument was was held on Tuesday in the National Park.

The monument is intended to serve as a reminder to the nation that children are persons with social and legal rights.

The dedication ceremony was attended by Prime Minister Sam Hinds, former president, Janet Jagan, who unveiled the monument, and British High Commissioner, Edward Glover, among others.

Giving a description of the monument and what the different parts signify, artist Michael Khan said the top of the monument which depicted the rising of the sun showed the development of children. He explained that the sun was seated on a upside down 'L,' the vertical part signifying the strength and growth of children, while the other arm indicated that children had to reach for the stars. The base of the monument represented the world and the six benches around the monument represented the six races of Guyana.

A short poetic speech sent by President Bharrat Jagdeo said: "Give children a chance to grow/ Care and love on them bestow/ Keep their bodies in a healthy state/ Train their minds to make them great."

Human Services and Social Security Minister, Indra Chandarpal, in her feature address said that children's rights were being promoted all over the world, and children themselves were raising the issues.

She said that the monument was first a public recognition that children were persons with legal and social rights who were important to the future of the nation, and secondly, it constituted a symbol of Guyana's commitment to the survival, development and protection of its children.

According to the minister issues relating to juvenile justice, education, environment and respect for parents, among other things, were raised by the children in Guyana during the Children's Parliament in August of last year. She said these same issues were raised at the Commonwealth Children's Summit held in Durban, South Africa last November.

She disclosed that juvenile justice was an area that was being looked at by the NCRC since it was aware that some children suffered punitive measures that were meant for adults. She said the NCRC was working to bring about closer collaboration and greater understanding of the rights of children to legal protection.

On the issue of education the minister said: "Future spending on education will see an increase in the number of trained teachers and a system designed to make secondary education more effective and accessible to all children of secondary school age. Vocational education and general skills training will also be available to those who prefer to follow that path." The question of flogging in schools as a form of discipline was being looked at also, according to the minister.

Referring to the environment, Chandarpal said that schools all over the country were being rehabilitated to make them more conducive to learning. Other aspects of the environment were also receiving attention, and according to the minister the Forestry Commission was examining the social consequences of denuding the forests and working on measures to ensure that plant and animal life were protected for future generations.

"I want you, the children of Guyana, to also play a part by keeping your classrooms and school yards clean and by not throwing litter on streets," the minister told the children.

She further advised them, "while you do have rights you also have responsibilities, you have a responsibility to respect your parents, elders and others, to show your love and care."

She told the children to regard the monument and the area surrounding it as their space and help to keep it looking tidy by not littering it and not picking the flowers planted around it.