Barbados has been praised for making major strides in implementing child survival and development rights, according to UNICEF Representative for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Dr Aloys Kamuragiye as diplomats and officials marked World Children’s Day and the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
But the UNICEF official also pointed to gaps in children’s education, health and well-being, urging Government and others responsible for children to take joint action to close these gaps.
At a CRC30 children’s rally at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, Dr Kamuragiye, touting several milestones for Caribbean countries in protecting children and supporting the development under the treaty and other international goals, noted that Barbados has managed to significantly reduce its child mortality rate since 1990.
He said: “To the extent that when I look at the target for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in relation to the child survival rate, most of the Caribbean region, starting with Barbados, have already achieved that target.
“That is great news because globally when we talk about Sustainable Development Goals, they target for 25 per 1,000 live births.”
The UNICEF representative also commended Barbados for performing well in the area of providing free pre-school education for its citizens, surpassing some Latin American countries.
He said Barbados was also headed towards universal access to secondary education, an area that proved a challenge to many other countries globally.
But Dr Kamuragiye revealed that a UNICEF assessment of the nation’s quality of education through the internal education system efficiency and found that the early dropout rate at the secondary level was noticeably high. He also cited a need for improved performance in the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) examinations.
And noting that the island still needed to work on implementing and executing child protection rights, the representative called for a pooling of resources to ensure a reduction in violence against children.
Turning his attention to the issue of children’s health, Dr Kamuragiye urged that childhood obesity and mental health be addressed.
He said: “I seize this opportunity to say that all sectors, all stakeholders that can contribute to reducing overweight, obesity, have the duty to do it.
“The second emerging issue relates to mental health.
“We see statistics that show us that more and more in Barbados and across the Eastern Caribbean; it is becoming a significant issue to the extent that we would like to see the Government of Barbados, the different sectors, start to tackle this significant issue of mental health because one in four children, age 13 to 15-years-old contemplate committing suicide, having suicidal thoughts, and that affects more girls than boys.”
In her remarks at the rally, Director of Child Care Board Joan Crawford reminded parents that if their children presented behavioural challenges, they need to speak to them and not threaten to abuse them.
Crawford shared that World Children’s Day launched in 1954 was celebrated on November 20 annually to honour and celebrate children.
She said this year’s theme, For Every Child Every Right, was designed to allow students to learn about their rights.
Crawford told the children’s rally: “We at the CCB have engaged in a series of programmes which speaks about the issues that impact on our children.
“We go to the schools, we speak with you, and we will continue to do that so that you are aware of your rights and that you are aware of your responsibilities. And also rights are age-appropriate.
“There are times when we need to remember our age and acknowledge those that are placed in authority over us.”
Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs Cynthia Forde, who holds responsibility for the Child Care Board, the Government’s principal child protection agency, said Barbados was among the first in the region to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child on October 9 1990. She pledged that as a nation, children’s issues will be a priority.
Forde told the students that they should be focused on becoming the shining stars of society, and urged them not to take free education for granted.
She said: “I encourage you to value the free education that is being offered to you.
“Do not walk the corridors when you know you should be in the classroom.
“Do not get into videotaping. Keep your focus as these wonderful children who came on the platform showed you that they are not going to be sidetracked by anything.
“I have had no free education but I am here with these distinguished folks.”
Minister of Youth and Community Empowerment Adrian Forde told the scores of schoolchildren they have all the available resources to enable them to shine in a country where they have access to fundamental rights.
He declared: “I am happy to say as Minister of Youth that we will do everything within our power to ensure your rights are protected.”
At the rally, children showcased their talents in song, dance, and dramatic presentations. [email protected]