November 14 is celebrated as Children’s Day in India. It is to increase awareness of the rights, care and education of children. It is celebrated every year as a tribute to India’s First Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru who is fondly known as Chacha Nehru among children. It is also to create self-esteem in the children that they are the assets and the future of our nation.
The Constitution of India does not define ‘child’. A child can be considered as a person who has not completed eighteen years of age. According to the International Convention on the “Rights of Child,” 1989, A ‘child’ means every human being below the age of 18 years unless, under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier”, (Article.1). According to Section 3(2) of the majority Act 1875, “Age of majority of persons domiciled in India shall be on his/her completing the age of eighteen years and not before”. This view is taken in many other laws in India like the Guardian and Wards At 1890 [Section 4.(1)], Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 [S.2(b)]. The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO) defines “child” as any person below the age of eighteen years [S. 2(1)]. Same is seen in the National Policy for Children 2013 [S.2(1)]
20th November is celebrated as the “Universal Children Day” also known as “International Child Rights Day”. Declaration on child rights in 1959 was adopted on 20th November 2007. Child rights include the right to survival, identity, food, nutrition, health, development, education, recreation, name and nationality, family and familiar environment, protection from neglect, maltreatment, misuse and abuse, trafficking etc. The objectives of celebrating ‘Child Rights Day’ are to offer the children a chance to fully develop and enjoy their lives in security and safety. It also intends to strengthen the awareness of child rights in the society, to deeply monitor the child living conditions in all the different areas of the country, to offer all the parents a parental support in developing their growing children. Above all, to conscientise the parents about their responsibilities towards their children under 18 and to prevent the violence and abuse against children
Indian Government has set up a constitutional body called the “National Commission for Protection of Child Rights in 2007, to protect and safeguard all the children in our country.
The protection of Child Rights started first in France and spread across Europe afterwards. Since 1919, the International Community, following the creation of the League of Nations, which is the forerunner of the United Nations started to give importance to child concept and constituted a Committee for child Protection. League of Nations adopted the Declaration of the ‘Rights of the Child’ on 16th September 1924 known as Geneva Declaration. The World War II and consequential casualties of children led to the creation of the UN Fund for ‘Urgency for the Children’ in 1947 which later became UNICEF, a permanent international organization in 1953. UNICEF started several programmes for helping children in their education, health, and their access to water and food. On December 10, 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) came into existence and it recognized the “motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance”. Another historical development of child’s rights is the “the Convention on the Rights of the Child” adopted by the United Nations on 20th November 1989. Article 54 of UN emphasizes the economic, social and cultural rights of the children. Thereafter the Convention held in 1999 condemned Child Labour.
Despite all efforts national and International level, the situation of children in India is really shocking.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau there were 14,183 children who were victims of human trafficking in 2016. 27% increase as compared to the previous year. Total crime against children reported in 2014 – 89423, in 2015- 94172, in 2016- 1,06958. Cases of kidnapping and abduction, reported in 2015 alone were 54,731. In crime record against children, Uttar Pradesh stands first then Maharashtra, then Madhya Pradesh. Highest number of rape cases is reported from Madhya Pradesh. Highest number of cases under Juvenile Justice (Care and protection of Children Act, 2000 are found in Tamil Nadu.
Shocking to know the number of missing children is increasing each year. Out of total 1,11,569 missing children during the year 2016, a total of 55,944 children were traced and still around 55,625 children are untraced. ‘The protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012’ has given more teeth to fighting child rights violation. Still sexual abuse of children are on the rise. It is unfortunate that the cases of sexual exploitation involve perpetrators known to the child more often than strangers. The latest data by NCRB add to this, finding that 25% of rapes of children in the year 2015 were committed by their employers and co-workers. The number of cases registered for child abuse increased from 8,904 in the year 2014 to 14913 in the year 2015, under POCSO Act. Sexual offences and kidnapping account for 81% of the crimes against minors
“If you are thinking a year ahead, plant a seed, if you are thinking a decade ahead, plant a tree, if you are thinking a century ahead, educate the people”. As the above said Chinese proverb, if we today desire to have a better tomorrow for our nation, we need to start moulding the children to make them better citizens today itself. Abraham Lincoln once rightly said, “The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next generation”.
We know from research that children between 2 years and 5 years of age start becoming aware of gender, race, ethnicity and disabilities. They also begin to absorb both the positive attitudes and negative biases and prejudices that are still far too prevalent in our nation. If we do not invest in their development now, our children will have to pay a far greater price later both financially and in the quality of their lives.
“Destiny of our nation is shaped in its classrooms”, says Kothari Commission (1964-66). No doubt, the knowledge, skills and attitudes instilled in the students form the basis for nation building. As Supreme Court rightly said “Education is to make the students participate in the nation-building”, (P.A Inamdar vs. State of Maharashtra).The future of any nation depends on its children who are the potential torchbearers. Thus their growth and development of physical, intellectual and moral is a priority for any nation.
Classroom is the first learning space outside the house. It is here the foundation for educational achievements is laid. It is the classroom which is the factory of potential engineers, doctors, architects who shape physical infrastructure and quality of life in a nation. Quality Primary and Secondary education is necessary for formation of human capital. Classrooms have vital roles to play in shaping the attitude and outlook of students. Education should generate in students a sense of brother-sister relationship. Classrooms are essential for instilling right values like kindness, cleanliness, gender equality etc. It is here we need patriotic and committed teachers who can enable the children to become nation-builders.
Education has vital role to play in shaping the children and creating a better Nation. Syllabus should contain lessons imparting patriotism, national feeling, equality, respect for one another, respect for all religions. It should enable the children to rise above race, religion, caste, sex and place of birth. Children should be taught the values of Indian Constitution, Fundamental and Human Rights. Law like Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO), Juvenile Justice, sex education, gender justice etc. should find prime place. Today when children being tortured, abandoned or killed even by parent/relative are on the rise, the schools should teach about Child Helpline, Child Welfare Committee, Commission for Children, State and National level. Seminars and workshops must be conducted on Child Rights.
Every Panchayat or Municipality should have a mechanism to see all the children are going to school. Government’s responsibility to implement RTE in its true spirit cannot be ruled out. Lack of transportation is a major reason in some place that prevents children from going to school. In some other places, children lack money for transportation. In states like Haryana, girl children are not sent to school except a few. Here culture and customs deter them. The Governments in every State have to find a remedy to such deterrents and see that all children are educated. India needs an education system in the interest of the nation rather than politics.
(Published on 28th October 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 44)