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Our children, our treasure

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In recognition of Child Month 2008.

It is without doubt that we are living in a more enlightened world today. One resultant implication is that for the most part our children are forced to contend with far greater challenges at a much younger age than their parents may have when they were the same age. The controversy becomes more apparent when one attempts to suggest that although the challenges faced by our children today may seem greater, there are many new and innovative ways of succeeding to which today’s children are exposed, which were foreign to those of yester year.{{more}} We are, therefore, forced to ask whether today’s children are really living in better times.

I can vividly recall my early childhood days. The focus was on four central activities, namely, the church, school, home and play. Within those four walls was my castle; indeed, it may be safe to still submit that the world from the eyes of a child does not evolve far beyond this. Within the play component was a strong sense of community group participation. Although one was present mainly as a non-active participant, what was more was that the values and norms of our society were being communicated, and in so doing, there was an active determination of the future role to be expected as a citizen. Our children are our treasure and we must at all times seek to protect them.

With Child Month activities in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines well on the way, we as a nation must pause to recognize the enormous potential that we possess in our human resource, and particularly that in our children. Once the situation is carefully analyzed, the response must be for us to do everything in our power to ensure that this resource is effectively harnessed.

It is clearly outlined in the United Nations Millennium goals that a reduction in the rate of child mortality should be one of the main ambitions of any modern and developing health care system of a nation. Through the immunization of our nation’s children, we are now able to prevent many of the communicable diseases that decades ago would have caused severe health problems. Today, our Ministry of Health has been successfully working with these goals in mind to ensure that our children prior to commencing primary school are fully immunized free of cost to parents. With the advent of improved antenatal care, many of the preventable causes of maternal and child perinatal morbidity and mortality are also being alleviated. These measures must be encouraged, since only if our children survive and are healthy will they be able to make a positive and valuable contribution to our evolving circumstances.

The importance of pre-school, primary, secondary and post secondary education cannot be over-emphasized. We must work relentlessly to ensure that our children in their formative years are equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge that will make them marketable, not only on a local and regional market, but also internationally. The education revolution must, therefore, be encouraged and fine-tuned to ensure continued relevance and positive results as we move to ensure that all students have an equal chance at succeeding.

The absence of organized sporting and extra curricular activities must not be left unattended. The role of the community in the organization of social clubs which foster avenues for sporting and other recreational activities must always be seen as being pivotal to the full development of a child. It is in our best interest as a nation, that our children are given the opportunity to explore their talents and blossom not only in the classroom, but also on the playing fields and hard courts, in the music rooms and on our nation’s stages as young lovers of drama. We have work to do as a people.

Involvement in community groups and other volunteer organizations will help to build a sense of togetherness and love for community and will definitely teach our children how to serve. This must at all times be advocated by parents. Each community should be encouraged to ensure that our children have the opportunity to take part in community youth group based activities which could be beneficial to them, and also act as a channel to direct energy positively. It is in this regard that a community may be able to successfully mobilize itself against the many negatives which attempt to infiltrate its structure.

Abraham Maslow in the 1940’s proposed in his hierarchy of needs that only when the physiological needs such as food, clothing and shelter are met are we then able to ascend the pyramid and thrive for safety, love, self-esteem and self confidence, and then self actualization. We must ensure that all the basic needs are met for our country’s children. With the advent of the global economic crisis and the food rationing seen in many nations, including our neighbors in Haiti, the basic needs of many children around the world are under threat. This for certain can impair our children’s ability to become self-fulfilled. With an increase in certain crimes and a general shift in some regard away from mainstream values, we must ensure that our children’s safety is not also compromised, as some may be enticed by the current trends. Hence it is always commendable when our policy makers ensure that stiffer penalties are in place to punish the perpetrators of heinous crimes.

As we continue to celebrate Child Month, we must bring to bear on our minds the important need to embrace our nation’s children by ensuring that they feel loved and appreciated. Too often do we highlight the negative things children do without positive reinforcement of the good things that they are capable of doing. Indeed our children must be corrected for wrongdoings, but they must also be praised when they excel and rewarded appropriately. This helps to build self confidence and self esteem. As a nation, our children are our future. We must invest heavily in them as we continue to grow and aspire for great things. A blessed Child Month to all the children of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines as we work together to protect their safety and welfare.

Saboto Caesar is a lawyer and Unity Labour Party Senator.

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