Children in parliament

Stabroek News
August 14, 1999

The recent staging of a Children's Parliament at the National Cultural Centre was a good idea and one must hope that it will become an annual feature, which was one of the recommendations to emerge from the working committees of the government and opposition members of that parliament.

The idea was to give the children some experience of the decision making process involved in the nation's highest forum. A large number of issues were debated including the right to education, the right to access information, the right to be protected from unhealthy working conditions and sexual abuse. It is extremely desirable that young people learn to take positions on important topical issues of the day. It is a vital part of a real education, to develop informed positions and to be willing to defend them in reasoned debate. There has been a prevalent impression that children have become completely apolitical, do not discuss political or other topics and are not interested in shouldering public responsibility. There is some evidence for this in the lack of vitality of the youth groups of the political parties and the general failure of youth organisations to express informed views on the issues of the day.

It would be useful for public organisations to invite teenagers to discuss important political and other issues of the day, not necessarily in the debate format which tends to be over-prepared and mechanistic and often not really to reflect the views of the children involved but in more informal discussions where children can express freely their opinions on key topics like ethnic voting patterns and the promotion of economic development. What is vital for children is to learn to think for themselves, not just to repeat received opinions and ideas.

The political genda has been set for a long time by persons who entered politics in the fifties and sixties. They suffer from a kind of tunnel vision in which they continually replay and rehash old themes. There is some evidence that the younger generation has realised that this is a dead end, that there is no future with that outlook and that new thinking is required. They are alienated and ready for a new dispensation. The appointment of Mr Bharrat Jagdeo as president is significant in that respect and could perhaps herald the start of a new era in which younger people with fresh thinking play a more significant role. There is evidence too of independent thinking among some of the young Turks in the PNC.

By taking a more prominent role in the ongoing public debate the children may help to break the stranglehold of division and stagnation that has held the country in its grip for so long and open the way to a new dispensation.

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