Saturday, April 17

Students’ fight for refugees

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Two city students are trying to mobilise schoolchildren to fight for the rights of refugee children in the state.

Prathit Singh of The Heritage School and Sasha Agarwal of South City International have demanded identity cards and better living conditions for refugee, migrant and street children in India before UN representatives at a recent South Asia summit in Thailand.

The two are trying to take their child rights campaign to various schools through an Asian youth network and help build a safety net for children across borders.

Prathit and Sasha, both in Class XII, were part of a four-member team that represented India at the 2019 Asian Children’s Summit organised by South Asia Initiative for Ending Violence against Children, a Saarc apex body, in Thailand from November 25 to 30. The conclave, attended by students from 22 countries, marked the 30th anniversary of the adoption of UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“Our pre-board exams were scheduled around the time of the summit. But we requested our schools to postpone the exams for us. We thought it was more important to voice our demands for migrant children who are often illegal immigrants or victims of cross-border trafficking and get no legal recognition from our government,” said Prathit, who has been part of anti-trafficking campaigns.

The children were nominated by International Justice Mission (IJM), Calcutta, as part of their school initiative, and selected by National Action Coordination Group of the ministry of women and child development. “Educational institutions have to develop into a protective and accountable place for children,” said Saji Philip, the director of operations of IJM, Calcutta, on the project.

Team India was joined by Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and others in placing demands before UN representatives at the summit. “We want identity cards for refugee, migrant and street children. They should not be denied refuge in any state in our countries. They should not be separated from their parents. We need to provide them with better living conditions…,” Parthit said.

The students also discussed how vulnerable children are in the digital world and because of climate change.

Sasha, who has initiated campaigns on mental health and women’s issues in her school, stressed the need for better psycho-social rehabilitation of children.

“Children who have been displaced because of natural disasters need help from mental health professionals. They need access to proper medical care. The conclave helped us realise that students across the border are fighting for the same cause — peace and fundamental rights for children,” she said.

“It’s important to protest and fight for human rights…. Exams can be rescheduled, but the fight for the wronged and displaced children is more important,” said John Bagul, the principal of South City International.

Seema Sapru, the principal of The Heritage School, added: “We encourage our students to be responsible. When Prathit Singh prioritised his commitment towards child labour over his exam, the school backed him. It’s important to shape responsible students.”


Source: The Telegraph

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