Giving our children their due
Guyana Chronicle
June 1, 2004

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GUYANA is observing International Children's Day today

The observation is taking place amid raging debate in the sociopolitical arena about the role of Government in giving children their due and about the malaise that has overcome many over society's relative unconcern for the welfare of our children.

Oh, people don't altogether distance themselves from the plight of their neighbor's child. And in many instances, such as that involving a 13-year-old child, or that of a former magistrate reportedly suggesting that the age of consent be reduced from 14 to pre-teen years, people's outrage implies a deep interest in the welfare and well-being of the child.

But those who express disappointment cite the era during which children were scolded for failing to express a salutation -- say a 'Good Morning,' Good Day,' 'Good Afternoon,' 'Good Evening,' or Good Night' -- when passing an adult on the street tightlipped. Indecent language was forbidden, as was eating certain fruits or dressing in a certain manner. Even farting aloud was taboo.

Today, in Japan, for example, a four-star rated film titled "Good Morning," features children who can fart at will and who get a kick out of it. In fact, our understanding is that if kids want to make friends at school in Japan they first have to learn to fart aloud. If they can't they are labelled "no good."

If this is considered an exaggeration of how cultural devolution has derailed ethical and moral standards, the inappropriate behavior children demonstrate from listening to "dub" music and from the lawlessness their elders especially of protest-march fame display, epitomizes the scarcity of mentors and role models to whom our children can look up for guidance and direction.

As if all this weren't bad enough, Guyana is experiencing a frightening increase in incidences of rape, abuse, molestation, and abduction.

Then, at the macro level, Guyana still faces a Herculean task bringing its people back from the brink of socioeconomic collapse, a situation that saw it becoming the poorest, probably most people-deprived country in the Western Hemisphere, its children having had to drop out of school to help their parents sell cigarette and condiments on the streets to eke out a living.

Today, in observing or celebrating International Children's Day, Guyana is making the statement that it cares about the nation's children.

Although the world is observing International Children's Day for only the fourth year, day-long celebration of the world's children began in 1920, when Ataturk, the first president of modern Turkey, started the tradition by declaring every April 23 'Children's Day.'

The United Nations recommended in 1954 that all countries institute a universal children's day, to be observed "as a day of worldwide fraternity and understanding between children and of activity promoting the welfare of the world's children," and the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959.

Guyana is a signatory to this Declaration and is endeavouring, through the formulation and implementation of policies, to give every Guyanese child his/her due.

We hope that today's observance/celebration of International Children's Day will see adults of every facet of life reflecting on how far we've come and resolve to strive even harder to satisfy the needs and desires of our children for self-fulfillment.