Gotta blame Nehru for Children's Day if nothing else. Not only is it the fashion of the day, but it is also one of his many significant contributions to nation-building that is conveniently panned for political reasons, notwithstanding the fact that children indeed cause for celebration when they are born as they are both proprietary legacy tags and the cornerstones of a dynamic nation.
The elderly who form the bulk of the elected representatives in our country are but a shadow of their former childlike selves and thereby hangs a tale! “Adults are just outdated children," says Dr. Seuss and we must reverse that going forward.
Children’s day in India is celebrated each year on the birth anniversary (November 14, 1889) of India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, which is on November 14. It is celebrated as a tribute to his affection for kids and his belief that they are the future and therefore a cause celebre!
But World Children's Day is celebrated on November 20. This day, this year marks the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. On 20 November, we celebrate the power of children to change the world!
Can they? Of course. Take the case of Greta Thunberg’s activism which started after convincing her parents to adopt several lifestyle choices to reduce their own carbon footprint. In August 2018, at age 15, she started spending her school days outside the Swedish parliament to call for stronger action on climate change by holding up a sign reading Skolstrejk för klimatet (School strike for climate). Soon, other students engaged in similar protests in their own communities. Together, they organized a school climate strike movement under the name Fridays for Future.
Her Indian Counterpart Licypriya Kangujam (born 2 October 2011) is a child environmental activist from India. She is one of the youngest climate activists globally. She addressed world leaders at the United Nations Climate Conference 2019 (COP25) in Madrid, Spain asking them to take immediate climate actions. Licypriya's has been campaigning for climate action in India for two years to pass new laws to curb India's high pollution levels and to make climate change literacy mandatory in schools.
So, they can change the world by their activism and their fight for their own and the planet’s rights which will impact their future. And they have a far better head on their shoulders, than us adults. They know it is their future on the line and we know it too. But we do not do anything about it, because it may inconvenience us? Of course, when it comes to our own children, we are ready for any sacrifice, but for the children of the world? Well, who cares...
Governments in India have tried to improve the lot of children with several legislative moves - the Right to Education Act - pioneering legislation by the previous government to provide quality education to the less privileged children, POCSO - to prevent child sexual abuse, Labour codes which prevent the employment of children in certain employments or regulate them for their safety, the New Education Policy and the like. But legislation is only so good as its implementation and the attitude thereto and that, to say the least, is lackadaisical.
The key to a robust childhood that benefits a nation, which has been interrupted by the pandemic, is values - human values, not just religious values though there is a wide overlap - and the chance to play outside in the rain.
Human values which include duties towards elders, neighbors, and nation, taught by practice, reinforced by positive strokes and reward, and a new education system that promotes the spirit of inquiry and a quest for problem identification and resolution as compared to memorizing a solved theorem is the best way forward to a bright future for our children. As Margaret Mead, cultural anthropologist said, “Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.”
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