Children's parliament recommends annual sittings

Stabroek News
August 9, 1999

Annual meetings were one of the recommendations to emerge on Saturday from the working committees of both government and opposition members of the Children's Parliament which met for two days at the National Cultural Centre in Georgetown.

The youthful assembly which comprised members from all ten regions of the country concluded on Saturday afternoon, and recommended annual sittings in order to expose more young people to the decision making process. It was also proposed, among other things, that branches of the Government Analyst Food and Drug Department should be established throughout the country to properly scrutinise food products; that better salaries and conditions of service should be made available to youths to encourage them to stay and develop their country and that more primary and secondary schools should be developed in interior locations especially in Regions Seven, Eight and Nine.

The second sitting of the Children's Parliament had earlier debated articles in relation to the development and protection of the child.

Discussions centred around some seven areas including the right to education which at the primary level should be free; the right to access information without hindrance; the right not to be hurt; the right to be protected from unhealthy working conditions; the right to be protected from illegal drugs and the right to be protected from sexual abuse.

There was lively debate between students on both the government and opposition sides of the house with areas of disagreement reminiscent of actual parliamentary debates. The government side spoke about the measures that were in place to protect the child while the opposition side berated the government for doing very little and questioned their commitment to guaranteeing the rights of the child. This was all done in an atmosphere of friendliness and cordiality which was a feature of the two-day sitting.

Six independent members also made submissions to the parliament in which they articulated their views on the various articles discussed on the day's agenda.

Before the final adjournment of the parliament, there were closing remarks by the Assistant Representative of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) local office, Juan Carlos Espinola, who hailed the sitting of the children's parliament as a significant event. He highlighted a few areas where there could have been greater emphasis in their recommendations like the monitoring of school leavers to determine their progress after formal schooling. He concluded his presentation by thanking those persons involved in making the event a reality. The Speaker also came in for special mention by the UNICEF official for his high quality of control over the assembly.

The children themselves were given an opportunity to relate their experiences on their participation at the sittings with some holding strong views on subjects discussed at the two-day meeting.

In brief remarks, Shirley Ferguson, Co-ordinator of the activity, promised to push for the recommendations coming out of the forum to be sent to parliament. She commended the students on their attendance and high level of meaningful participation despite the short period they had to prepare for the sitting. She also wished them well in their exams and future endeavours.

An opposition member from Region 1 moved the motion for the Adjournment of the assembly.

The speaker of the Children's Parliament, Merrano Isaacs, pledged that the recommendations would be forwarded to the National Assembly for consideration.

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