ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, October 08, 2006
Vol. 41 - No 19

National Children's Forum

By Natasha Fernandopulle
Pix by M. A. Pushpa Kumara and Berty Mendis

The year 2006 was declared 'The National Year of the Child,' by President Mahinda Rajapakse, in February this year. Keeping this in mind, 'Save the Children in Sri Lanka,' organised the National Children's Forum for The Year of the Child 2006. They understood the importance of children needing a way to express their thought and views. Therefore meetings and workshops were organised to gather the views of children around Sri Lanka.

at the workshop

The kids were placed in two age groups, 11 - 14 and 15 - 18 years. Through the meetings held, the children expressed themselves and their many problems were identified. These meetings were held on a district basis in July and August this year. The issues raised were brought up at workshops which were held on September 30, 2006. The representatives then went through these issues and selected those that can be considered national issues.

The issues that were finally presented on Children's Day, October 1, were Education, Health, Safety & Security and Recreation. This session was held at the BMICH. Sumedha G. Jayasena, Minister for Children's Development, Ferial Ashraff, Minister for Housing Construction and A. H. M. Fowzie, Minister for Railways and Transport were present at the forum.

An interesting aspect and also the highlight of the forum was when the children were able to ask questions from the Parliament Members.

Questions like why their schools were being used as military and welfare camps, how their schools get ruined when internally displaced persons use them and why they can't leave their schools, were raised.

at the national forum

They also raised the issue about not having teachers for particular subjects and that they should look for teachers in the respective areas so that the issue with outstation teachers will reduce. All these led to how their education was being disrupted.

The children even posed to the MP the suggestion of including children when going into peace talks!

When the kids were questioned about racial problems they stated that among this group, there were no ethnic and racial problems. Most of the issues were based on war and politics so what the children said was that if most of the problems are due to politics that the politicians need to do something and make a change. In return the children were made to understand that change would not be easy.

It must also be noted that these kids spoke a lot of sense, were well behaved, composed and were very dignified in how they handled the forum. The kids spent two days together and were sad to leave each other at the end of the programme.

Speaking to Maleec Calyaneratne, Co-ordinator Media and Communications, Save the Children in Sri Lanka she said, "the next step will be to take some of these ideas forward," to help these and other children in our country and to make a difference for them.

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Copyright 2006 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.