Published: 21st November 2021
World Children's Day: Children present 'Charter of Demands' to 35 MPs, ask for a reduction in syllabus among other things
Over 230 iconic government buildings, landmarks and monuments across India were lit up in blue on November 19-20, signifying the nationwide celebration of child rights
On World Children's Day, November 20, a group of children presented a Charter of Demands to parliamentarians for reopening schools safely and bridging the digital divide. The Parliamentarians' Group for Children (PGC) convened a virtual 'Children's Parliament' in the presence of 35 Members of Parliament, including PGC Chairperson Gaurav Gogoi and Conveners Sanjay Jaiswal and Heena Gavit.
Representing about 1,500 children from 16 states, a total of 14 children shared their experiences in learning loss and the challenges they faced because of prolonged school closure throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Children and young people presented a nine-point charter of demands to the parliamentarians, urging them to take action to support their learning recovery. With schools reopening across the country after nearly two years, the charter focuses attention on equitable access to online learning, reducing the size of the syllabus and prioritising vaccination for children.
The presentation was followed by a question and answer session and an open discussion. Kritika, a 15-year-old from Delhi who facilitated the event, said, "My peers and I have faced various challenges on education. Today, we feel grateful that parliamentarians have come here to listen to our demands." The prolonged closure of schools affected not only education but also children's physical and psychological well-being. Online learning was not accessible to all. In fact, UNICEF's rapid assessment survey conducted in six states last year states that 76 per cent of parents of children in the 5-13 years age group, and 80 per cent of adolescents aged between 14 and 18, reported low levels of learning compared to when they were in school for in-person learning.
PGC Chairperson Gaurav Gogoi said, "World Children's Day reminds all us of our commitments and duty to ensure that children have their hopes, dreams and aspirations intact." Addressing the children as leaders of tomorrow and the future of India, he said, "As we move forward, I want you to know that we have your best interests at heart. It is my sincere hope that the takeaways from today will guide us to work even harder for the same."
Indevar Pandey, Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development, said, "I want to reaffirm that the government is working to create a world in which every child has a safe and healthy childhood. The government is committed to protecting your future and each of us works to ensure that no child is left behind."
Yasumasa Kimura, UNICEF India Representative, said, "As we hope to recover from nearly two years of the pandemic that took away school education from countless children, it becomes essential to move forward with a plan for recovering education." Over 230 iconic government buildings, landmarks and monuments — from the Rashtrapati Bhavan, North and South Block, the Parliament House and Qutub Minar, Indian Women Press Corps in New Delhi — and other significant buildings, across India were lit up in blue on November 19-20, signifying the nationwide celebration of child rights and putting the spotlight on children's learning recovery.