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Guyana’s 225,000 children have an absolute right to a happy childhood. Children who endure abuse can be affected adversely for the rest of their lives. Experiences in children’s first 1,000 days − a period of relative helplessness when they are at the mercy of others – can impair their lives permanently.
Emphasising the importance of protecting the nation’s children on his weekly programme, the Public Interest, former President David Granger called attention to the Constitutional provision that “the best interest of the child shall be the primary consideration in all judicial proceedings and decisions and in all matters concerning children…”
Mr. Granger identified five factors − education deficiency, exploitation and abuse, social exclusion and discrimination, poverty and poor health − which could be most harmful to children. He noted, also, that children with physical disabilities or mental deficiencies could be left behind or neglected while poverty forces others to leave school early to search for work to meet their families’ needs.
Assessing the legislative framework for protecting children’s rights and promoting childcare, the former president said that laws are only as effective as their enforcement. Laws need to be complemented by plans, policies and programmes which strengthen childcare – including providing support for the victims of abuse. In addition, he said that every generation has a duty to protect its children inside and outside the home. He explained that laws are necessary, but not sufficient, to eliminate exploitation and expand opportunities for children’s self-improvement.
Children are meant to benefit from policies aimed at ensuring that they all attend school, to start with. An excellent example was the APNU+AFC coalition’s Public Education Transportation Service which aimed, in the first instance, at providing bicycles, boats and buses (3Bs) to ensure that children were taken to school free of cost, Mr. Granger recalled.
The current Central Government should work with Regional and Neighbourhood Democratic Councils and civil society to ensure that not only are children given the opportunity to be educated but, also, that they are protected from exploitation and discrimination,” the former President concluded.