Youths showcase their talent at `Children in Concert’
By Abigail Butler
Guyana Chronicle
December 1, 2002

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ONE hundred and seventy-eight children last Sunday night took to the stage at the National Cultural Centre, using their talents in music, poetry and dance to remind those in attendance that children have rights too.

Patrons had a great treat and expressed their satisfaction about the performances, as they made their way out of the Cultural Centre at about 19:30 hrs, after three hours of entertainment by the children drawn from the nation's nursery, primary, and secondary schools. President Bharrat Jagdeo, who attended the show, noted that it was quite good.

'Children in Concert' marked the 13th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and was organised by the National Commission on the Rights of the Child (NCRC) and the United Nations International Children's Education Fund (UNICEF).

The Convention on the Rights of the Child is a treaty adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in November 1989 and ratified by the Government of Guyana in 1991 - on the fundamental rights of children to survival, development of physical and mental aptitude, protection against anything that tends to diminish their development and the right to participate in family, cultural and social life.

It consists of 54 Articles. The heart of the Convention is found in Articles 1-41.

The Convention requires at every turn, that the rights set out in its Articles be given effect through practical actions that will make the right not an abstract theory, but rather a constant element in the day-to-day lives and experiences of individual children.

Sunday's event was definitely a treat and what was much talked about was the excellence with which the children ran the entire programme. The only adult involved was First Lady Varshnie Jagdeo, Chairman of the NCRC, who delivered opening remarks.

Apart from appearing on stage to do their pieces, children were also escorts - accompanying the guests to their seats. They served drinks and even chaired the programme.

Yulanda Armstrong of Marian Academy, Dhan Chand of School of the Nations, Sofia Evans and Ching Lan Hsieh of Christ Church Secondary and Roger Sawh and Renata Valz, of Queen College were excellent as co-presenters.

The show was well organised and Mrs. Jagdeo later told the Chronicle that it was a success, having drawn over 1,000 patrons.

In her opening remarks she said that the Convention covers the rights of children, protecting them from anything that would impede their development. While these might have been publicised in the past, the children were given the opportunity to further explain them, she said.

She said they are now looking to enforce these rights but would need laws and the cooperation of the family, teachers, the government, both non-governmental and governmental organisations, and all institutions including the judiciary, so that when cases are brought before the Court involving children, they can be dealt with in a timely manner.

She added that the current crime wave in Guyana is a gross violation of children's rights and made reference to the hijacking of vehicles in which children might be travelling.

"...The rights of a child are violated when a minibus is hijacked and a child is grabbed by a bandit and used as a means to get money and valuables from their parents and other passengers," she stated.

She also used as an example bandits breaking and entering into people's homes and hurting or killing parents in the presence of children. Such acts, she said impinge on the right of a child to live free from fear.

Mrs. Jagdeo also referred to studies that show that the exposure given to a child in the first five years of his life will determine not only his/her intellectual capacity, but his/her social tendencies, personality and character.

She asked that the audience consider the children under five years in their families and villages and ask themselves whether they are exposed to positive influences that would mould them into the type of adults they would want them to be.

The First Lady, however, cautioned that they not lose sight of the progress made and to consider that in Guyana, children have more access to education and health care than in many other countries where they not only have limited access to school, but are also victims of conflict and are forced to work.

She said many are child-soldiers and others are exposed to the deadly HIV/AIDS virus.

"In Guyana the incidents of HIV in children are very low and we have less child labour so we should consider the progress, and work together to protect our children's rights and save the children of this great nation," she stated.

Speaking to the Chronicle Tuesday, she described the event as a success and acknowledged the involvement of Shirley Ferguson and Ramona Singh, both of NCRC, who she said did the bulk of the work. She also expressed gratitude to those who participated in the event and those who assisted the children in their preparation to make the venture a success.

Among the many performances was an excellent rendition of 'The Greatest Love of All' by the West Ruimveldt Primary School Boys' Choir.

'Village Talk' was performed by the National School of Dance. With excerpts from 'Heritage' and great choreography by Viviene Daniel, the large group of dancers treated the audience to a magnificent performance.

Even the nursery pupils had their say when the Kingston Nursery took to the stage on several occasions, reminding a full cultural centre that children have the right to be protected from all forms of abuse, and to take part in recreational activities among others.

They, however, noted that children also have the responsibility to take care of the environment, of their health, and that those with disabilities have the responsibility to be the best they can be.

With Vishal Persaud on the violin and Aparna Gajraj on the piano, the duo delivered an excellent rendition of Vivaldi's 'Spring'.

There was also an Indian dance 'Pardesi' performed by the Dharmic Nritya Sangh Dance Group. Young calypsonian, Ornesta Nelson, of Buxton Community High School, contributed to the programme with 'Our Children of Today'.

The talented actors of the Dolphin Secondary School in 'Raising Gobrachov' were hilarious in portraying the values of a good family life.

Proceeds from the concert will go towards helping the Commission to carry out its mandate.

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