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All we need is an education

November 11, 2003 17:01 IST

Faiz Ahmed, 12, had travelled from Kargil in the militancy hit state of Jammu and Kashmir to question the heads of two important UN bodies in New Delhi.

"What are you doing for the education of children living in areas affected by conflicts and wars?" asked Ahmed.

Sitting in the front row of a "Children's Parliament" attended by about 80 children from 11 Indian states on Monday, he put his question before Carol Bellamy, executive director of United Nations' Children's Fund and Koichiro Matsuura, director general of United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

Ahmed hails from the border town of Kargil, which was the epicentre of tension between India and Pakistan in 1999, and witnesses regular exchange of fire between India and Pakistan.

His education was interrupted for about a year when his school was closed. Ahmed asked the UN bodies to ensure safety and security in the world so that children could go to school everyday.

Matsuura replied: "We have to put an end to conflicts but you children must help to achieve peace and durable peace. Let us make an appeal to the leaders of the world to establish peace. It is important for the education of children."

Carole said conflicts must stop but children should go to school even during wars. "Education should not stop at any cost," said the director.

The two-day "Children's Parliament" was organised by the Save Childhood Campaign, a non governmental organisation, which had assembled children affected by the ills of the society.

Some of the children were labourers, some victims of political problems and many others suffered from extreme poverty.

The children presented a charter of demand to Bellamy and Matsuura after discussing the problems faced by many like them worldwide.

Bellamy and Matsuura assured that the demands would be discussed at the third High Level Group meeting on Education for All that also started on Monday.

The UNESCO campaign aims at sending all children to school by 2015.

One of the demands of the children was to urge the governments of the world to reduce military expenditures and invest more on education.

The children said schools with well trained teachers and basic amenities were needed everywhere, and the maximum distance between a student's home and a school should be one kilometre.

Their demands included free books and stationary for poor students, and a parity in the quality of education imparted at private and government schools. The children asked for health check-up and advocated severe punishment for those employing children as labourers.

Beauty, who was elected as the speaker of the Children's Parliament, asked if their representatives were invited when international policies and laws regarding children were framed.

Beauty, 14, was a labourer in Bihar before being rescued by the Save Childhood Campaign.

Matsuura replied that UNESCO had made it mandatory that there should be a children's summit and the conclusion of the summit should be included in ministerial level debates.

He said two children from the summit would participate in the UNESCO conference as representatives of the children.

Matsuura said governments should be in direct contact with children so that their aspirations are reflected when rules are framed.

It is estimated that about 115 million children in the world in the age group of 6 to 14 do not go to school for various reasons. Among them, 60 per cent are girls.

Ehtasham Khan in New Delhi