Kolkata : Child labour, education and the mental wellbeing of children top the list of concerns for the present generation of students from city schools.
During a recent online discussion organised by UNICEF and Rotary International where city school students were speakers, it emerged that these teenagers empathise with the children who are less privileged.
Describing child labour behind many of the evils brought into a child’s life, Chirag Tulsian urged other students to do their bit to bring about an improvement in other’s lives.
“During a visit to my village, I found children were forced to work for money. Their poverty was caused by lack of rain and unseasonal rainfall which damaged crops extensively, forcing their farmer parents into penury. The children were forced to earn instead of studying,” he said.
During the month-long stay, Chirag decided to educate a child and found that gradually more children joined him. ” I taught them the basics of rainwater harvesting through which they can profit from unseasonal rain,” he said, adding that the children’s education continued and the farmers liked it.
This student of MC Kejriwal Vidyapith saw the fruits of his efforts when another spell of unseasonal rain hit the village and the children faced it effectively.
Reminding that children are not the property of their parents, Tapasya Jain of Hariyana Vidyamandir urged the audience that they are human beings and not means to earn.
“Child labour makes the children susceptible to various means of violence and unjust activity. It cuts them off from schooling and physical well-being,” she said, by propping up a self-made poster on Stop Child Labour before the camera.
After hearing Chirag’s initiative, Sudeshna Roy, chairperson of West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights (WBCPCR) urged the teenage students to take care of the children of the workers in their houses, maybe a cook, domestic help or a driver. “These children are mostly the first generation of learners and make them aware of their rights,” she said.
Students also voiced their anxiety towards increasing amount of mental pressure the children now go through.
With a call to ponder over the rising rate of suicide among the teenagers, Vaanchhit Agarwal of DPS Megacity School, said that depression should not stand as a barrier in a child’s life during the formative years.
“Huge academic stress exists because constructive steps to adopt an education system that favours a child have not been taken up,” he said and requested the parents to be more empathetic towards the children and arrange for psychological support for them from experts.
Announcing that Rotary and UNICEF will work together towards this end, Amit Mehrotra, Chief of UNICEF in West Bengal said, “In addition to working with government agencies, UNICEF strives to forge partnership and alliance with others to reach the most deprived. Amplification of children’s voices is essential for people to understand their cause.”
Encouraged by the young speakers, moderator Suchorita Bardhan, Communication Specialist of UNICEF stressed on the importance of the children’s voices during framing the development policies and discussion on them.
Participating in the discussion, eminent environment journalist Jayanta Basu urged the students to be aware of global warming, climate change and consequent sea level rise and their impact on the people living in the most vulnerable places like the Sundarbans.
Sekhar Mehta, former president of Rotary International ensured that UNICEF and Rotary would work to address these issues which they feel concern them the most.