Separate children ministry demand of time

Posted: জানুয়ারি 24, 2009 in Uncategorized

THE only wealth in this world is children, more than all the money, power on earth”. Mafia Don Michael Corleone when uttered these innocent words in Godfather movie, viewers were just mum and one more time they could feel that the importance of children was same to all. In that particular moment, all parents’ hearts must have filled with love for their children. But in the practical world, we are perhaps ignoring this simple truth, especially in Bangladesh.

We knowingly or unknowingly have forgotten that child development is a universal issue. Children belong to no political party, or even it is not an issue of a particular caste or region. So, we can expect that child issue will get top most priority and we should invest our level best towards child development. Children are our future and we should be able to understand this basic fact.

People of Bangladesh have apparently accepted the ‘Charter of Change’-manifesto of Bangladesh Awami League. They gave a blank cheque to AL to fulfil and implement each point of the charter. Now it is AL’s turn to give back the result of the confidence.

Children issues in the manifesto

A separate paragraph (para 13) is there in the Manifesto on children and juvenile welfare: “Child labor will be gradually abolished in all sectors. Use of children in political and other activities through coercion or enticement will be prohibited. In keeping with the UN convention on children’s rights, adequate measures will be taken for developing their physical and mental capacity and for their nutrition and entertainment”. Moreover, children issues have been mentioned under different sections of the manifesto like, in health and family welfare (nutrition of children will be ensured), freedom struggle and freedom fighters (quota in jobs and educational institutions for the children of freedom fighters will continue), sports (sports and exercise for physical and mental development of the children, the adolescent and the young shall be made compulsory for all educational institutions) and education (enrolment at the primary level will be increased to 100 percent net by 2010) etc.

Who will take the lead

Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (MOWCA) is responsible for implementing children issues in Bangladesh since 1994. Experience tells us that it is one of the weakest among the government ministries. Moreover, children issues are getting less priority in ministry’s business allocation and citizen charter (one can find more in the website: http://mowca.gov.bd). Under these circumstances, we cannot expect that MOWCA can fulfil the political commitment of AL nor it will play a commanding role in near future. Rather a separate ministry could be established for creating an enabling environment for our children.

Children Ministry should have the commanding role to manage and coordinate all sorts of child development issues now being managed by different ministries and departments and NGOs and development partners. It is only possible if we get a separate ministry under the leadership of a senior minister with right attitude and knowledge about children and their issues. Considering the present situation the Prime Minister can take the lead initially. It is the demand of time and fully match with the vision of Charter of Change. We cannot expect and achieve a modern and developed Bangladesh without morally developed children and educated families.

What new ministry can do

First of all new ministry can review the existing national plan of action for children. Next task could be to make an appropriate budget considering the total child population (around 40% — under 14 years) of our country and allocate the resources for real change. Early childhood development (0-8 yrs) could be the focus of this new ministry because spending 1 taka in ECD activities can save 8 taka for other purposes. It is also found that young children respond best when caregivers use specific techniques designed to encourage and stimulate progress to the next level of development.

It can ensure higher intelligence scores, higher and timelier school enrollment, less grade repetition and lower dropout rates, higher school completion rates, improved nutrition and health status, improved social and emotional behaviour, improved parent-child relationship, increased earning potential and economic self-sufficiency as an adult. Moreover, mothers who participate in quality ECD programmes demonstrate reduced rates of pregnancies. It will also increase female labour force participation. Participation in ECD programmes is associated with reduced criminality, too.

Developed countries have ECD programmes under child and family development ministry or education ministry. Now, we look forward to positive response from our policy makers and especially from the Prime Minister for her kind decision regarding a separate ministry for development of five core plus children of the country.

Mohammad Golam Nabi is an independent development communication specialist.

Email: gnabi1969@yahoo.com

 

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