Ensuring children's rights are respected Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
November 20, 2003

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A CHILD is entitled to special care and assistance. We've always known this, but the Declaration of the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted in 1959 and 1989, respectively, make a specific statement about the nurturing of the child through his/her childhood.

It's no surprise, then, that Universal Children's Day is being observed today in Guyana, as elsewhere in the world, as a day "of worldwide fraternity and understanding among children and of activity promoting the welfare of the world's children."

According to the Declaration on the Rights of the Child and the present Convention on the Rights of the Child, a child is every human below the age of eighteen.

It says States should ensure that the child is protected against all forms of discrimination or punishment, and that he/she has an inherent right to life, among other things.

Wherever there is a deprivation of these rights, for whatever reason, assistance and protection should be put in place. It also points out that the State should take all appropriate "administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence ...maltreatment or exploitation." Moreover, the child should be given every opportunity to grow up free from fear and enthused to realize his or her potentials to the max.

Guyana ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in January 1991. Subsequently, that is, in March of 1993, Government established a National Commission.

A national plan of action was thereafter outlined to address major problems facing children in Guyana. These included the family, health and nutrition, water and sanitation, basic education and literacy, children in especially difficult circumstances, and the legal and constitutional provisions for children.

Since its birth, the Commission has been busy promoting the rights of children countrywide.

The Government of Guyana has made a number of other provisions to improve the state of the nation's children. The availability of approximately 300 health institutions attests to the level of Government's effort to ensure the availability of better healthcare for the nation's children.

The infant mortality rate, 28.8 per one thousand live births in 1994, has now declined to 25.6. Under-five mortality per 1000 live births has also declined from 34.6 to 31.3. And pregnant women immunized against tetanus jumped from 56.2 percent in 1996 to 82 percent today.

One year olds immunized against measles (MMR) have increased from 84.1 percent to 85 percent.

Guyana clearly is taking care of its children.

Over 800 schools have been built, repaired or rehabilitated countrywide to ensure that better education facilities are available. And for the past eleven years approximately 5,000 teachers received training for the nation's schools.

The Ministry of Education has revised the school curriculum to accommodate physical education and parental involvement in children's education.

Through the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security, millions of dollars have been allocated to provide uniforms and other school accessories for more than 10,000 children from nursery to secondary schools.

The Ministry of Human Services also assists in ensuring that all children are registered at birth and that each has a place in schools. This ensures that all have access to primary education.

Through the Ministry of Housing and Water provisions are also made for more and better housing facilities for families countrywide to ensure that more children are adequately protected with homes and families.

Even as Government continues to devise and implement policies and plans to provide for the nation's children, non-governmental organizations, in many instances with international community assistance, are developing counselling services and teaching and helping children to practice high moral standards of behavior.

More can be and has to be done. But there can be no denying that Guyanese do care and so are ensuring that the rights of our children are respected.