BHATNAGAR: EDUCATION STARTS FROM HOME
AT THE OPENING OF THE PREVENTION OF CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT CELEBRATION IN RA. Assistant Minister challenges adults to be responsible and play our part for a brighter future for Fiji’s future leaders – our children, with one simple principle – we must put
The following is assiatant Minister for Health and Medical Services Veena Bhatnagar’s speech during the the opening of the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect celebration in Ra.
Children, parents, friends, well wishers, stakeholders, ladies and gentleman Ni sa Bula vinaka, namaste, salam waleikum and good morning
Iam delighted and privileged to be here to celebrate with you the International Day for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (PCAN), which is a world-wide effort to recognise our collective responsibility to prevent and combat all forms of child abuse and neglect. Child abuse can be prevented, but not without your help. I am very passionate about children just like all of you, and like any other parent, our children are our God-given gifts that we must continue to protect, nurture and appreciate throughout the phases of childhood until they are able to stand responsibly on their own. The theme for our celebration is “Great Childhood Begins at Home”. I believe that if children are to get the great childhoods that they deserve, we parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, older siblings, as adults must all play our parts starting from inside our homes. We look to Family when we need help our children expect parents to raise them, grandparents to love them and siblings to be there for them through- out the up’s and especially the down turns in life. I believe that the home and family are the most important, the most influential institution in society. When the family is in trouble, the “world” is disturbed.
I am a parent and I believe that all parents, present here this morning, will agree with me that we are our children’s first teachers – we explore with them, we read with them, we play with them, we count with them and the list goes on. A child’s first learning institution is the comfort of their own homes. We can say that a parent’s role in their children’s learning evolves as they grow, one thing remains constant: we are our children’s learning models. Parents are the most visible models of behaviour who shapes a child’s character.
I challenge all parents present here this morning, to take our role seriously in the care for our children; to appreciate them; to listen to them; to spend time with them and to love them. Everyone is here, because we want to make a difference in the lives of our future leaders of Fiji. My Ministry urges everyone, young and old, the need to be responsible for our children and to take time to guide them. Ladies and gentleman, as parents and guardians we should accept that we now live in a different time to when we were raised. That is something we cannot change. But what we can certainly change is the ability in learning to trust our children, to be supportive of them and to be there as their champion. We need to find that passion to raise our children with their identity and their responsibilities in both the traditional and in the context of today’s space and time. Living in an increasingly modernised environment has brought its benefits and challenges. As parents we have a huge responsibility in the life of our children. Ladies and gentleman, according to the recent statistics collated under my Ministry in relation to Child welfare cases on abuse and neglect, reported cases are increasing.
To date a total of 725 cases were reported to my Ministry by professionals under the Child Welfare Decree of 2010. The Decree mandates professionals to report on the harm or likely harm of a child, to my Permanent Secretary so that children can get immediate support from Social Welfare officers. The reported cases continue to increase and we believe these are some effects of the awareness created to inform the public through community and stakeholder advocacy programs provided by the Ministry and its loyal partners. As a Government Ministry responsible for the protection of children, we are committed to ensuring that children are protected from violence, exploitation and abuse. Ladies and gentleman, the Government invests in our children’s protection and development through health, education and welfare and it is our responsibility as parents and guardians to do justice to our children. The Child Services Unit in the Department of Social Welfare has the legislative responsibilities in the protection of children and for these, there re specific laws that governs child protection.
In 2015, a Child Help Line was established specifically to become a focal access point for all children in Fiji to seek counselling, advice, referrals for services and to report cases of abuse. The number is 1325 and this is a toll free service. Apart from addressing the challenges reported by the children, the child helpline will also provide an access point for concerned adults, parents, guardians and citizens to access the helpline to report abuse and request for information on child related matters. Ladies and gentleman, The campaign against child abuse and neglect needs to be first understood and shown in the home front. Let us change our mind-set and show warmth and understanding to our children.
Let us listen to our children to get a picture of what challenges and opportunities they have and how we can assist them. Many of our children end up in the wrong side of the law because the home where love and understanding should be nurtured is rather cold and volatile for their security. Let us work together so that we complement the development of a child from infancy to young adults. I wish to close with special emphasis on the Theme “Great Childhood Begins at Home”.
Basically, the key to ensuring that we equip a child holistically, to be responsible and make informed choices on the boundaries that surround them, lies in the hands of their parents or guardians.
I challenge all of us to be responsible and play our part for a brighter future for Fiji’s future leaders. The principle is simple, we must put our children first as our priority. On that note, I now have much pleasure in declaring the National Prevention of Child Abuse Day officially open. Thank you for your attendance today and the Ministry looks forward to working with you all to protect the children of Fiji. Vinaka.
Assiatant Minister for Health and Medical Services Veena Bhatnagar with women and children during the opening of the prevention of child abuse and neglect celebration in Ra.