‘Children’s voice should be heard, views should be respected’
School Level Human Rights Clubs of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana had their Annual National Convention on December 28, 2019 at Vijayawada. Almost 600 girls and boys representing 630 schools in 7 districts of Andhra Pradesh and 5 districts of Telangana participated. Dressed in Pink and Yellow T-Shirts, with the slogan “We stand up… Join us” the girls and boys were the cynosure of all eyes, especially of the adult participants in the programme, including the Education Minister Adimulapu Suresh and the Chairperson of the State Commission for the protection of Child Rights, Mrs. Hymavathi. The children mostly belonging to classes 7 to 9 made history at the Makineni Basava Punnaiah Vignana Kendram where the programme was held.
The National Convention was part of the Human Rights Education of People’s Action for Rural Awakening, Ravulapalem spread over 12 districts in the two Telugu States of AP and Telangana. The convention began at around 10.00 with songs on Human Rights and Child Rights by the club members. Their songs were interspersed with human rights slogans and catchphrases on the Sustainable Development Goals.
The Education Minister was happily surprised at the children holding themselves up as child-human rights defenders. He listened to every child that spoke up. He carefully paid attention to the 10 demands that they had submitted in a memorandum. He was so amazed at finding children be so articulate in their views and the kind of productive activities they carried out to promote child rights such as preventing child marriages, bringing dropout children back to school and so on. In all modesty and earnestness he said, “I never thought that this generation is leaned more towards social intelligence and social awakening than technical, professional and competitive intelligence. I am thrilled to see such vibrant students working against social evils and striving for a society that respects differences.”
Lauding the efforts of PARA, he said that it was one area where he always thought that children should be enlightened. “The students should be provided with value-based and 360-degree education. Children should be guided to grow up in freedom and choose the kind of education they wanted. “I strongly believe that the voice of children should be heard and views should be respected,” the minister said. Adimulapu Suresh responded positively to one of the demands to allocate a day for hearing the grievances of children. He said that poverty should not become a hurdle for getting education. In fact, they should that everyone should get English-medium school, he said. He was delighted to hear children from government schools speak fluently in English. The minister told the young participants that their self-respect and self-dignity should not be compromised just because they were children.He recognized the work PARA is doing through DAPC (Differently Abled Peoples Collective). He wanted Persons with Disabilities be given all due respect and care so that they will be treated as equal, and never hurt with abusive names or comments. He appreciated the stance of the club members to fight discrimination by “Celebrating Differences”. He wanted all to join hands with these boys and girls in their fight for self-respect and dignity, and see that all are treated as equals.
Quoting a statement by the HR club member, who said that “He was once at home/school. Now as a member of the club now he is on this stage.” The minister appreciated the pun in naadu / nedu that the child unwittingly expressed. He asserted that the coming 5 years of governance with the present Chief Minister, Jagan Mohan Reddy, would be a total transformation in the field of education. He repeated every item on the memorandum submitted by the students and said that he would follow up each one of them.
The minister responded very positively to the plea to integrate Human Rights Education in all schools in the state and said that he wanted to collaborate with the students already in contact with PARA. The Minister for Education said that he would talk to Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy about the 10-point memorandum submitted by HRC members and see that HR clubs were functional in the 45,000 odd schools in the state. He promised to work along with PARA to empower children on their rights. “I extend my full support towards achieving the goal of transforming the lives of students”, he said. He added it was important to have values as learning alone would not make students socially responsible citizens. “The children’s voice should be heard and views should be respected,” he asserted repeatedly. He asked the children to continue to raise their voice against any form of discrimination.
The education minister asked the students and their guide teachers to stand tall and fight against any form of discrimination. “I am pleasantly surprised to hear Human Rights Clubs’ members sloganeering ‘Today’s Children are Today’s Citizens’and not ‘Tomorrow’s Citizens’.”
Roshan Kumar, State Advisory Committee member,referring to the recent unfortunate events leading to the Disha Act, spoke of women coming forward to fight for their rights. There was a time, and it still continues, when whoever spoke of rights were blacklisted.” Now with children speaking of rights, and with the spread of Human Rights education, everybody will have their on the progress children are making. every movement.Children should also come together in large numbers and ensure the rights of other children, especially the less fortunate.
PARA Director Fr V Ignatius revised with the club members the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. He elicited from the students how they wanted their school to be and the kind of facilities they were expecting in their schools. The club members wanted, for instance, that counsellors be appointed as many children were wasting their lives in the name of love or with the mobile phone. Some girls asked for Self Defence courses for students and an app to keep track of the whereabouts of women and children for their protection in the light of increased number of crimes against children and women. Many children wanted their schools should be gender-friendly and made many more other interesting proposals. The director challenged the children strive for achieving the gender equal society. For this, he added that HRC members should create awareness on Gender, Domestic Violence, Sexual Exploitation, Child Labour, Child Marriage, and other social evils that were affecting many areas of social life and affecting many children.
Taking the note of the expectations of the club members to make the schools more student-friendly, including persons with disabilities, he asked the members to submit a memorandum to the officers concerned at each state. The main demands, already gathered earlier from different settings were put together and submitted to the education minister.
Before the public meeting with the Education Minister and other dignitaries, the staff of HRE/HRC conducted elections for various national posts like President and Vice-President. While Sahith Lal, member of Human Rights Club at Hyderabad, was elected as the President of Telangana and Bhuneshwari (Name of the school/district) as Vice-President. Yamini of Andhra Pradesh (Name of the school) was elected as the President and Vardhan Varma (Name of the school) as Vice-President.
HRC members from Paderu performed Dimsa Dance – a tribal dance of Odissa – at start of the national convention. Vijayawada Central Constituency MLA Malladi Vishnu said conventions like these were a must to understand the state of schools and problems they were facing in their everyday running. He said through talks alone we could solve issues. “Children should not be at workplaces; they should be in schools. Education is their basic right,” he said. He lauded children who were fighting child labour, child marriage and child rights related issues.
Andhra Pradesh SCPCR chairperson Ganta Hymavathi, Telangana SCPCR members Shobha Rani, Mr. Bhrunadhar and Raja Jyothi, Fr Bala Showry, Nine is Mine National Coordinator Mr Vijay, Nine is Mine South Zone Coordinator Mr. Martin Sudhakar, Navajeevan Director Fr Ratna, first Child Parliament President Paul Thomas from Chennai, Andhra Pradesh Bahujan State Secretary P Venkata Rao and others were the special guests who shared the dais.