Today, November 14th, India celebrates Children’s Day. I wish all children in India “A Happy Children’s Day!”
In 2009, Google India launched the Doodle4Google competition. It is an invitation for students from grades 1to 10 to design the Google Doodle to celebrate Children’s Day in India. The theme for this year’s competition was “A place in India I wish to visit”. Google received over one million entries from more than 1700 schools across 50 cities in India.
Google India announced Vaidehi Reddy as the winner of this year’s Doodle4Google design contest. She was honoured at an event in New Delhi on November 12, 2014.
The above winning Doodle titled “Natural and Cultural Paradise – Assam” went live on the Google (India) home page today, November 14, Children’s Day.
On this Children’s day, India remembers and honours the country’s first Prime Minister Shri Jawaharlal Nehru born in 1889. The children of India fondly called him “Chacha Nehru” (Hindi: चाचा नेहरू)) or Uncle Nehru.
Jawaharlal Nehru always emphasized the importance of showering love and affection on children. He saw in them the future of India.
On December 3, 1949, Jawaharlal Nehru wrote a lovely letter to the children of India. Here are some excerpts from it:
“I like being with children and talking to them and, even more, playing with them. For the moment I forget that I am terribly old and it is very long ago since I was a child.”
“Can you recognise the flowers by their names and the birds by their singing? How easy it is to make friends with them and with everything in nature, if you go to them affectionately and with friendship. You must have read many fairy tales and stories of long ago. But the world itself is the greatest fairy tale and story of adventure that was ever written.”
“Grown-ups have a strange way of putting themselves in compartments and groups. They build barriers… of religion, caste, colour, party, nation, province, language, customs and of rich and poor. Fortunately, children do not know much about these barriers, which separate. They play and work with each other and it is only when they grow up that they begin to learn about these barriers from their elders.”
“Some months ago, the children of Japan wrote to me and asked me to send them an elephant. I sent them a beautiful elephant on behalf of the children of India… This noble animal became a symbol of India to them and a link between them and the children of India.”
“You know we had a very great man amongst us. He was called Mahatma Gandhi. But we used to call him affectionately Bapuji. He was wise, but he did not show off his wisdom. He was simple and childlike in many ways and he loved children… he taught us to face the world cheerfully and with laughter.”
Typically, the term ‘infant’ applies to young children between the ages of one month and 12 months. Yet, definitions may vary including children even between birth and two years of age.
In recent years, researchers have collected about 5000 assessments of cognitive development in infants between the age of 10 and 24 months.
I am presenting here just a sample of three videos of infants recognizing words.
In the following video uploaded on September 19, 2009, baby Torin alias TNT was 10 1/2 months. He skilfully recognizes words from flashcards. Every day, his dad makes new cards to continue his language development.
The following video was uploaded two months later on November 20, 2009 when infant Torin was one year and 20 days old. It shows TNT’s progress in his reading ability.
The 19 month old girl in the following video started to recognize words when she was six months old. Now she can recognize hundreds of words in two languages and knows what every word means. She can also identify colours and shapes. She recognizes images of the planets in our Solar System.
Child soldiers are “more obedient, do not question orders and are easier to manipulate than adult soldiers.”
The exploitation of children in the ranks of the world’s armies must end, says a new United Nations report. “One of the most alarming trends in armed conflict is the participation of children as soldiers,” declares the report, by Graça Machel, the Secretary-General’s Expert on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children.
The report says the use of child soldiers is a problem created by adults, to be eradicated by adults. It calls for a global campaign to demobilize all child soldiers and to “eradicate the use of children under the age of 18 years in the armed forces.” The report further calls upon governments to renounce the practice of forced recruitment, which has put increasing numbers of children under arms against their will.
“Children are dropping out of childhood,” commented Devaki Jain of India, one of Ms. Machel’s Eminent Persons’ Group of advisers. “We must envision a society free of conflict where children can grow up as children, not weapons of war.”
The use of child soldiers is hardly new. “Children serve armies in supporting roles as cooks, porters, messengers and spies,” the report notes. “Increasingly, however, adults are conscripting children as soldiers deliberately.” Children under 15 years of age are known to be serving in government or opposition forces in at least 25 conflict zones and it is estimated that some 200,000 child soldiers under 16 years of age saw armed combat in 1988. Generally, however, child soldiers are statistically invisible as governments and armed opposition groups deny or downplay their role.
The 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child defines childhood as below the age of 18 years, although it currently recognizes 15 as the minimum age for voluntary or compulsory recruitment into the armed forces. However, momentum is building for an Optional Protocol to the Convention that would raise the minimum age to 18.
With new weapons that are lightweight and easy to fire, children are more easily armed, with less training than ever before. Moreover, as was stated in one background paper prepared for the Machel report, child soldiers are “more obedient, do not question orders and are easier to manipulate than adult soldiers.” And they usually don’t demand pay.
A series of 24 case-studies on child soldiers, covering conflicts over the past 30 years, makes it clear that tens of thousands of children — many under the age of 10 — have been recruited into armies around the world. In Liberia, children as young as seven have been found in combat, while in Cambodia, a survey of wounded soldiers found that 20 per cent of them were between the ages of 10 and 14 when recruited. In Sri Lanka, of 180 Tamil Tiger guerrillas killed in one government attack, more than half were still in their teens, and 128 were girls. Solid statistics are hard to come by, however, as most armies and militia do not want to admit to their use of child soldiers.
According to the report, children are often press-ganged from their own neighbourhoods where local militia or village leaders may be obliged to meet recruitment quotas. In the Sudan, children as young as 12 have been rounded up from buses and cars. In Guatemala, youngsters have been grabbed from streets, homes, parties, and even violently removed from churches. In the 1980s, the Ethiopian military practised a ‘vacuum cleaner’ approach, recruiting boys, sometimes at gunpoint, from football fields, markets, religious festivals or on the way to school.
The report deplores the fact that children are often deliberately brutalized in order to harden them into more ruthless soldiers. In some conflicts, children have been forced to commit atrocities against their own families. In Sierra Leone, for example, the Revolutionary United Front forced captured children to take part in the torture and execution of their own relatives, after which they were led to neighbouring villages to repeat the slaughter. Elsewhere, before battle young soldiers have been given amphetamines, tranquillizers and other drugs to “increase their courage” and to dull their sensitivity to pain.
Some children become soldiers simply to survive. In war-ravaged lands where schools have been closed, fields destroyed, and relatives arrested or killed, a gun is a meal ticket and a more attractive alternative to sitting home alone and afraid. Sometimes a minor soldier’s pay is given directly to the family.
For girls, recruitment may lead to sex slavery. The report notes that in Uganda, for instance, young girls abducted by rebel forces were commonly divided up and allocated to soldiers to serve as their ‘wives’. A case-study from Honduras, prepared for the Machel report, illustrates one child’s experience of joining armed groups:
“At the age of 13, I joined the student movement. I had a dream to contribute to make things change, so that children would not be hungry … later I joined the armed struggle. I had all the inexperience and fears of a little girl. I found out that girls were obliged to have sexual relations ‘to alleviate the sadness of the combatants. And who alleviated our sadness after going with someone we hardly knew? At my young age I experienced abortion … In spite of my commitment, they abused me, they trampled my human dignity. And above all, they did not understand that I was a child and that I had rights.”
It is difficult to reintegrate demobilized children after a peace settlement is reached. Many have been physically or sexually abused by the very forces for which they have been fighting, and have seen their parents killed, sometimes in the most brutal manner, in front of their eyes. Most have also been led into participating in murder, rape and other atrocities. These children have no skills for life in peacetime and they are accustomed to getting their way through violence.
The report urges that all future peace agreements include specific measures pertaining to the demobilization and reintegration of child soldiers, ranging from job creation and the rebuilding of schools, to the training of teachers who are sensitive to the special needs of child victims of war.
The report calls on governments to regularize recruitment procedures for their armed forces and to prosecute violators to ensure that under-age recruitment does not occur. The Machel report also illustrates how the recruitment of children can at least be minimized when parents and communities are better informed about existing national and international law.
While much remains to be done, there have been some successes. In Peru, for example, forced recruitment drives reportedly declined in areas where they were denounced by parish churches. And in Myanmar, protests from aid agencies led to the release of boys forcibly recruited from a refugee camp. In the Sudan, humanitarian organizations have negotiated agreements with opposition groups to prevent the recruitment of children.
Chennai: The missing children bureau, started in Tamil Nadu in 2001 under the Tamil Nadu social defence department to trace children, is missing for the last four years. The bureau’s web portal has not been updated since 2007 and there was no information about whether the 200-odd children registered on the site as missing were restored to the families or not.
Take this case: M. Karthik Kannan, age 11, height 3.5 metres; missing date: 28/12/2002. Place: Coimbatore. Identification marks: Fair looking boy, a scar on the right elbow and protruding teeth. His photo and details were registered on the website but the site has no details about whether he was traced or not. Like him, over 10,500 children went missing in Tamil Nadu in the last five years, according to the national crime records bureau. Child rights activists question the absence of the bureau.
Jebaraj of NGO JustTrust, which works against child trafficking, said, “Several missing children are trafficked and forced into bonded labour, sexual exploitation and begging. When the MCB itself is missing, it shows the lack of love and commitment to work for the rights of children in our state.”
Requesting anonymity, a senior officer who worked in the department said, “The bureau stopped functioning long ago. The photos of children reported by the parents with the police as missing were uploaded on the website. But no big measure was taken to reunite the children with their families.”
The officer said now the department is considering to post a nodal officer to regulate the bureau. Social defence department director N. Mathivanan told DC that the bureau was closed and a new project, ‘Track the child’, would soon be implemented.
On Jan 12, 2013, Lindsey Bartay published on YouTube a video of Breanna, a six-year-old girl crying because she is too young to marry Houston Texans football player J.J. This video immediately became a sensation.
When Watt saw the video, he wanted to find Breanna. On Monday, 28th January, he tweeted: “Does anyone happen to know this cute little girl? We have to find her and turn those tears into a smile.”
Watt found Breanna.
On Wednesday, 30th January, he tweeted photos of himself “proposing” to Breanna with a Ring Pop and flowers. He wrote that the little girl had agreed to be his “pretend wife for the day.”
The following day Watt told Yahoo Sports Radio that he gave Breanna a white jersey to wear as a wedding dress, and joked about registering at Toys ‘R Us.
“It was awesome and it was great, and we had our first dance to her favorite artist, Justin Bieber. It was really, really cool,” Watt said. “It was fun. It was priceless.”
The 16-year-old, Ye Shiwen of China known as the ‘Mandarin Mermaid’ swam faster than US superstar Ryan Lochte. “It was pretty impressive. And, it was a female. She’s fast. If she was there with me, I don’t know, she might have beaten me” Lochte said.
Ye Shiwen said her extraordinary swim was the result of “hard work and training”.
In an effort to transform China into a global athletic power, the state-run athletics programs with a single-minded fixation on winning gold medals, earmark potential champions at a young age. Then, they haul those children away to camps and subject them to gruel training with its tough Soviet-style fitness programs.
At the London Olympics China’s star diver, 26-year-old Wu Minxia became the first diver ever to win golds at three consecutive games in the 3-meter synchronized springboard. She sacrificed her school education and family life to win the gold for her country.
Since the age of six, Wu trained daily at a diving camp and at 16 she had to move away from her family to live in a state-financed sports academy where training is grueling. She did not attend school. She had to dive all day for more than 10 years.
Wu Minxia rarely met her family members. Her parents followed her on Weibo, a Chinese microblogging site akin to a hybrid of Twitter and Facebook. In London, they could not meet her in person before the event. They watched their daughter perform from the stands. They had to withhold the news of her grandparents’ death for over a year. She was not even told that her mother had contracted cancer eight years ago. “We have known for years that our daughter did not belong to us anymore,” said Wu Yuming, her father.
Lin won a gold medal in men’s weight lifting. His father who had not seen him for six and a half years. He told reporters that he did not recognize his 23-year-old son until he heard his name mentioned on television.
Note: This five-part video presentation titled “How China trains (read: tortures!) its kids to become Olympic champions!” It vividly expounds the gruesome methods adopted by the Chinese coaches in training potential champions at a young age.
Today, November 14th, India celebrates Children’s Day. It is a public holiday. On this day, India remembers and honours the country’s first Prime Minister Shri Jawaharlal Nehru born in 1889. The children of India fondly called him “Chacha Nehru” (Hindi: चाचा नेहरू)) or Uncle Nehru.
Jawaharlal Nehru always emphasized the importance of showering love and affection on children. He saw in them the future of India.
On Children’s Day, the Kids in India engage themselves in the fun and frolic. Various educational, cultural, social, institutions organize functions and conduct competitions for children all over the country. All schools are organizing cultural activities on this day; in most cases arranged by the children themselves. Teachers also get involved; in many schools, they sing and dance for their students. The State and the Central governments organize film festivals in many parts of the country to showcase Children’s films.
I wish all children in India “A Happy Children’s Day!”