The coronavirus pandemic, which has triggered a “child rights crisis” for thousands of Caribbean children could yet provide an opportunity to reimagine the future – if children have a voice in shaping it, says Dr Aloys Kamuragiye, UNICEF’s Representative in the Eastern Caribbean.
As World Children’s Day dawned across the region, under the theme “Reimagine the Future”, Dr Kamuragiye said governments must listen to children and young people and work alongside them to design a better post-COVID-19 environment.
The head of the UN children’s agency said the costs of the pandemic for children are immediate and, if unaddressed, may persist throughout their lives.
“The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare the deep inequalities in societies and the Eastern Caribbean has not escaped, with staggered school days, shortened timetables and blended education, in a scenario where many do not have access to the internet, depriving many of a solid education.
“Indeed, a recent UNICEF report projected that across Latin America and the Caribbean, more than 3.1 million children may never return to school, while school enrolment of first-time students is likely to decline by more than 1.8 per cent,” Dr Kamuragiye warned.
He said children and young people will be living with the impacts of this pandemic and how the sub region and indeed, the world, chooses to respond matters. Children must be included in decisions that affect their future, he added.
“Children will never accept that we should return to ‘normal’ after the pandemic, because they know ‘normal’ was never good enough. And children have a unique and unparalleled ability to reimagine a more equal, just and sustainable world.”
The UNICEF head said many of the region’s children are already speaking on the issues which are affecting the Eastern Caribbean, and especially pointed to 11-year-old Maria Marshall of Barbados who was featured in a conversation with UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Orlando Bloom and 14-year-old Trinidadian Priyanka Lalla who was named as the sub region’s first UNICEF Youth Advocate.
World Children’s Day is a global day of action for children, by children taking place every year on 20th November, the anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. (UNICEF)