The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
Email This Page
Informed to understand
- Document

Although most adults do not naturally think of working in collaboration with children, many have been convinced of the value of doing so, whether by public-education campaigns or more specific training. Those who live and work most closely with children — parents, teachers, playworkers — are often the first to change their mindset. But so are other adults who might traditionally have been thought to have little connection with children, such as health workers and town planners...

In the United States of America, the Child Life Council brings together professionals working in health care who are committed to reducing the stress and trauma for children in clinics and hospitals. What is unique about the council is that they have a rigorous system of testing and qualifying health professionals in order to better work with children. The philosophy and practice of the council have an underlying meaning: relating and listening to children is not “child’s play”, but is an essential attribute for which practitioners should study and be qualified.

One example of how adults can be re-trained is in Calcutta, India, where a Child-Friendly Police Initiative, in place since 1998, has so far engaged 42 city police stations. Police officers attend courses aimed at sensitizing them to the rights of deprived children and juvenile offenders and developing links with social welfare and protection services. The police, with support from Rotary International, host health clinics in their stations...

A similar UNICEF-supported initiative has been meeting with success in the southern city of Bangalore in India. Here police and street children are brought together in training sessions that look at child rights and at how to cope with difficult circumstances. So far, 1,700 officers have been trained and five police stations have been given a child-friendly award...

In Calcutta, India, a citywide programme of action brings together major agencies committed to protecting and providing basic services for deprived urban children — including those who are working or homeless...Because there are not enough schools for all these children, the city is creating 700 primary education centres, which will be managed by NGOs and run by young people specially trained as “barefoot teachers”...

Optimizing children’s participation involves a redrawing of the adult world. It entails adults listening to and making space for what children suggest. It means children being encouraged to develop and refine their competencies and put democratic values into practice. It depends on adults sharing control, power, decision-making and information.

But what likelihood is there that the adult world is ready to embrace the ideal of child participation and further take into account the views of children' Better than it was — but not as good as it needs to be. Children suffer from discrimination simply because they are children. Proof of this is found in the fact that in many countries it remains legal to hit children. The belief that “smacking” is an integral, even essential, part of parental disciplining of children remains widespread...

If children are to have a voice, they need access to information that is both timely and understandable to their particular intellectual stage of development. Children seek information from the moment that they are born. The purpose of early stimulation is to encourage a child’s mind to build the mechanisms for integrating signals received from birth and to help “hard wire” the ability to learn into the brain at an early age. Furthermore, the educational process aims to provide the child with the information to understand, manipulate and participate in his or her environment.

Access to information is a matter of survival in many situations, most urgently today in the midst of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Misconceptions and ignorance about the disease are widespread among young people. The misconceptions vary from one culture to another, and particular rumours gain currency in some populations both on how HIV is spread...and how it can be avoided...

In the midst of this pandemic, a basic education of good quality for all children — one that offers sound information about sexuality and HIV, builds self-esteem and decision-making skills and gives children the information they need to protect themselves — is essential to save lives endangered by the ignorance and fear that surround the disease.

Perhaps the most important aspect of access to information is how it empowers those who have it. Access to information informs the entire developmental process protected by the convention and is a critical factor in both the personal development of a child into adulthood, as well as for the social development of that child into full membership in his or her community.

Email This Page