Events that led to four children being taken into the custody of the Children’s Authority were the sad prelude to yesterday’s observance of World Children’s Day in T&T.
In the hours leading up to the annual commemorations, a baby girl was found abandoned in bushes off Beaucarro Road in Freeport. Just hours after that, three other girls were close by when gunmen ambushed and fatally shot their mother and older sister.
Sad circumstances have put these children in the national spotlight and brought into focus how much needs to be done for the welfare and development of T&T’s children.
This year, dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic which has put so many aspects of our lives into disarray, has been particularly difficult for our nation’s children. The displacements and adjustments brought about by the virus have made them more vulnerable to sexual and physical abuse and neglect. Even their basic right to education is not guaranteed.
And so on a day to celebrate children, this nation was given a sobering reminder of the rights we fail to uphold and the responsibilities we often shirk when it comes to our population’s youngest and most innocent.
But the events of Thursday are just two of many ways in which we are falling short in the care and protection of our children.
Other problems have come to light over the past few days in a Guardian Media special series, “No Child Left Behind,” which has exposed the large number of children completely locked out of online classes due to circumstances beyond their control. Poverty—which leaves most of them out of reach of the virtual platforms where classes are being conducted this term—is a common theme in many of the stories we have reported so far.
There are far too many instances of children and their families falling through the cracks and it seems not enough effort is being made to bring about a genuine turn around in such cases.
We are not, at this time, fully aligned with this year’s World Children’s Day theme, “Investing in our future means investing in our children.”
T&T ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 29 years ago, indicating a commitment to ensuring rights that must be realised for children to develop to their full potential. The convention, which focuses on the whole child, also inspired the National Child Policy 2018-2028, a document meant to guide policies and programmes to make T&T a much better place than it is now for children.
The vision outlined in that policy is that all children should be “happy, healthy and confident; and their rights are respected, protected and promoted to facilitate their holistic development towards achieving their fullest potential as constructive members of society now and in the future.”
It is a vision that now needs to be matched by action, guided by clearly enunciated policies that firmly place children at the centre, investing in resources for their overall development and care for the brighter future they deserve.