Children’s empowerment pushed
Nov. 20 was the anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which mandates and obliges governments, including the Philippines, to uphold children’s rights to survival, development, protection and participation.
Recently we saw school-children protesting in the streets against the unexpected burial of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Their participation sparked online a give-and-take—praises for the youth who showed they were aware of the issue at hand; and criticism against school administrators for “manipulating” their wards. The exchange should lead us to reflect on the issue of empowering children; after all, their right to participation is very well enshrined in the UNCRC.
We always say the youth are the hope of the future, but what are the steps being taken to realize this hope?
Let’s bear in mind that the children and the youth are capable of forming their own thoughts, more so that we are living in the information age. Children are not passive beings. They absorb and even adapt to what media, the schools and, most importantly, society teach them.
And many children are vulnerable to the many social ills today: 5.5 million child laborers, 3 million of whom are engaged in hazardous or the worst forms of child labor such as prostitution, mining and industrial work; in four years (2010-2014), cases of sexual abuse (rape of children) almost doubled—from 5,132 to 9,875.
In Mindanao, soldiers and paramilitary groups force communities to evacuate. During P-Noy’s time, military operatives closed a number of lumad schools, encamped in some of them, halting the schooling of 2,672 lumad children. The harassment continues under the present Duterte administration though it has declared a ceasefire.
We must not underestimate the youth; they have the capacity to understand their experiences and their encounters with the marginalized. They should be commended when they step up and become the voice of their generation who question the evils in our present system.
Some might think that teaching the young to be critical is risky. However, critical thinking is an effective tool for the youth to survive in this fast-changing, globalized world; with this ability, they learn to fend for themselves and to address bigger issues affecting our communities.
So schools that hone critical thinking and involvement are on the right track toward empowering our children and youth for leadership in the future. I, therefore, commend St. Scholastica’s College for allowing its students to express their views about the Marcos burial. As well as the other schools that have made social awareness part of their curriculum, like the Assumption College of Davao. And the lumad schools in Mindanao, for molding lumad children into better community leaders.
I call on all children and youth to continue to be critical. You have every right to speak your mind, and stand for your rights. Fight for your future, even if the adults around you won’t, because your rights are very much yours to claim.
Here’s a salute to all children this children’s month!
RIUS VALLE, advocacy officer, Children’s Rehabilitation Center, spokesperson, Save Our Schools Network, firstname.lastname@example.org
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