Any place for children in the capital?

Any place for children in the capital?

While big deals and negotiations between the government, land lards of villages and prospective foreign investors becomes the centre of attraction in the State, then it may be immature to talk about the role of children in the capital.

It may be childish to speak about ‘children and the capital city’ of Andhra Pradesh. Lot of talks are going on in the State about (a) sufficient and suitable land required for building a capital, (b) financial contribution from people, business and industry, (c) preparation of master plans, regional development and village surveys, (d) acquiring land from farmers, (e) plan, design and building the capital, and (f) visits of international investors and negotiation with the State government.

While big deals and negotiations between the government, land lards of villages and prospective foreign investors becomes the centre of attraction in the State, then it may be immature to talk about the role of children in the capital.

Generally children are not the target audience who are concerned about the city, State and nation. Role of a child in a family, school, and community becomes obvious and is seen in respect of places like play areas, parks, shopping centres, schools, health centers etc. It is based on the spaces and places created for them in the house, neighbourhood and in the cities and towns. Children needs to stay, move, play, study, worship and socialise which are manifested in the form of various places and facilities made available to children in the city, town and villages. City and towns are developed with the help of master plans, development plans, residential area plans etc where the local government plays an important role. The house (family), school (the teachers and peer group), neighbourhood (community) and the city (the local government) should give a lovely place to children to live, study, entertain and socialise.

The European ‘Child in the City’ network, the Stuttgart manifesto of October, 2006, suggests, “Child friendly policy requires an integral approach whereby all areas of life within the urban area should be child friendly: education, mobility, urban planning, care services, health, environment, leisure, sports and so on.”

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says that though a majority of the world’s children live in urban areas, many are threatened by traffic, violence and pollution. It identifies a ‘child-friendly city’ to be one in which he/she can walk safely in the streets, on their own; meet friends and play. But building child friendly cities cannot be achieved by government alone. They will also have to make partnerships with children themselves, with families and with all those who affect children’s lives. A child friendly city is a city in which the children and young people are valued as citizens and have their interests respected, their voices heard and their views considered—it is a city that cares for, and looks after its kids.

Recognising the increasing urbanisation and the consequent increased vulnerability of children living in poorly equipped and inadequate cities, a resolution was passed during the second UN Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) held in Istanbul, Turkey. The conference declared that the well-being of children is the ultimate indicator of a healthy habitat, a democratic society and good governance.

In cities public institutions such as schools, libraries, museums, and parks to children, establishing child-friendly indicators and attract policy attention and political interest. To satisfy the local needs, aspirations and practices, it is essential to consider participatory process involving all concerned stakeholders – local authorities, civil society, experts, communities and, especially, children in planning and development of cities and towns. There is pleasing evidence of individual local authorities (eg Bendigo) taking up the agenda. Many local authorities are taking initiatives in child friendly and family-friendly service planning.

In India various approaches have been developed to make cities better places for children and women. Lucknow and Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh have formulated child friendly city plans of action in collaboration with the State government. The plans include city mapping of urban poor communities, inter-sectoral workshops for convergent planning and a focus on child rights with children’s participation.

The Calcutta City-Level Programme of Action for Street and Working Children (CLPOA) has equipped itself with a citywide coordinating mechanism for reaching unreached urban children. The CLPOA coordinates activities in the areas of pre-primary and primary education, health, legal aid, income-generation, vocational training and counseling. It addresses primarily the excluded and the poor among Calcutta’s children, including child workers, street children, rag-pickers, child sex workers and children of sex workers, trafficked children. Its focus is on delivery of basic services, protection of child rights, awareness raising and advocacy.

House, street and school play an important role in children’s life. Children use the city’s streets in very many ways since there is little space in houses. They use the street space to roll along an old tyre, dash through the alleyways on a cycle to school, or to get together as a group to play. Lakhs of children use the road every morning just on the way to school. Many of them either walk or cycle. Being a group with such overwhelming numbers, how inclusive and child-friendly are the city’s roads? There are many accidents involving a child under 14, every year. The locations of schools are vulnerable to accident. Pedestrian access is a major problem throughout the city and it becomes acute in school zones. Individual drop-off and pick-up of students and the associated traffic chaos is an important issue in cities and towns. Houses play very significant role to make love and care. Schools, and the teachers, play a vital role in the life and development of children and young people. It should be a given that schools are child friendly. Schools can build and maintain relationships with local authorities, community groups and businesses and be part of generating new ideas towards a child friendly agenda.

The fundamental question is: how are urban services, policies and practices – broadly conceived, not just as “urban planning” processes – shaping the well-being of urban children? Relevant service systems and policy settings should include transport, infrastructure, health, housing, education, community care, recreation, and property law. But building capital cities – it should not be only a place of politicians, bureaucrats, people with business in capital, admin staff movement and families of workers living in but also a place of visit by children, youth, women, differently able people, tourists and many more. Capital could house places for children such as doll museums, children’s park, sports stadium, science and technology museum, traffic court, interactive exhibit centers and a children parliament house. Children’s Zone should help kids gain access to education, health, entertainment, socialize, knowledge, skill development, learn discipline and courage, learn democracy, public administration, government and governance.

By: Dr Abdul Razak Mohamed

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