New programme offers children greater input

Published: 15/02/2011 05:00

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Viet
Nam will create more opportunities for children to access information, voice
their opinions, join social activities and be part of decision making processes.


A pupil in HCM City
discusses his ideals on environment pollution at a national forum for children.
The
Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs has drafted a
programme which will provide opportunities for children to hold discussions with
leaders at all levels.
(Photo: VNS)

These
are part of the goals laid out in the National Programme of Action for Children
(NPAC) 2011-20 draft, compiled by the
Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs that was
submitted to the Prime Minister for approval last December.


The
programme, the third of its kind in Viet Nam, is aimed to create equal
opportunities for development for children and ensure basic children’s rights,
such as the right to participation, said Nguyen Hai Huu, head of the
ministry’s Child Care and Protection Department.


It will
cost an estimated VND1.25 trillion (US$62.5 million) to implement the plan.


Disadvantaged localities, including Tra Vinh, Quang Nam, Dak Nong,Ha Giang, Lai
Chau and Dien Bien, will be given priority with a fund allocation of VND10
billion ($50,000) per year, showing the Government’s committment to eliminating
inequality.


The
right to participation was mentioned in the two last programmes but was vaguely
described and had little practical impact due to a lack of legal regulation, Huu
said.


“Organisation
of forums for children will, for the first time, be legally formalised. A
national forum will be held once every two years, with provincial and municipal
events held annually. Children will be given the opportunity to access
discussions with leaders at all levels,” Huu said.


An
official from the Central Office of Ho Chi Minh Young Pioneer Organisation, Tran
Van Tuan, said children would benefit from greater understanding, skills, and
experiences gained through participation in activities at school, at home, or
through other social events.


“Children will play an increasingly active role and could potentially help their
parents, teachers and policy makers make better policy decisions in areas that
directly affect them. This has been proved through a number of activities
conducted by the organisation in primary and secondary schools,” he said.


Despite
evidence that honouring this right is beneficial to children, exercising it has
faced many challenges in Viet Nam, said Le Hong Loan, chief of UNICEF Viet Nam’s
Child Protection Section.


Children’s voices often have been ignored, adhering to traditional Confucian
teaching methods meant children were given little opportunity to express their
opinions, she said.


“Viet
Nam still lacks a skilled staff and a mechanism to ensure implementation of the
right. Additionally, it needs to make clear which agencies are responsible for
listening to the opinions of children and taking them into account in decision
making processes,” she said.


Head of
the Viet Nam Association for Protection of Children’s Rights’ Communication
Department Nguyen Thi Lan Minh said the “Junior Reporters’ Clubs,” initiated by
UNICEF and the Youth Association in 1998, was an effective channel for children
to voice concerns.


However,
the club was unable to sustain operations in a systematical scale or expand, and
the reporters had difficulties accessing information because many organisations
failed to co-operate.


In
addition, parents were reluctant to allow their children to participate in such
activities and instead wanted them to spend time just studying, Minh said.


Moreover, poor computer and foreign language skills were also barriers for
Vietnamese children to share opinions particularly in international forums.


Some
children, however, have reaped the benefits of more opportunities for social
participation. Eighth grader Ngo Thu Thuy of Ha Noi’s Chu Van An Secondary
School said that she had been involved in and enjoyed many activities at school
and in her district.


“I know
that I’m luckier than many other children who don’t have enough food to eat or
enough money for school or who have to work from an early age,” she said.


In
addition to ensuring the right to participation, the national programme for the
next ten years will also focus on raising the quality of education, healthcare
and recreational services for children. It is also expected to address
unresolved problems, such as the high rate of malnutrition among children under
the age of eight, and the complex issues of maltreatment, abuse, exploitation
and neglect of children.


UNICEF
official Loan said the organisation appreciated Viet Nam’s efforts regarding
children in the last ten years, including increasing the rate of access to
healthcare and education services, reducing the fatality rate and reforming
child protection models.


The
population’s development
gap has created inequalities among children, especially for
minority children and those with disabilities. The country’s socio-economic
development has also created new issues, including child labour violations, the
prevalence of child trafficking and the increased HIV/AIDS rate.


Huu said
the programme has mobilised the co-operation of relevant ministries.


“Each
ministry will design detailed programmes on certain issues to
realise the objectives set in the NPAC 2011-20,” he said.


As of
2009, Viet Nam had a total of 23,600 children, accounting for 27.5 per cent of
its population. Research by UNICEF and MoLISA revealed that in 2007, about 28
per cent of Vietnamese children were living in poverty as defined by a range of
factors, such as proper nutrition and access to healthcare, education, housing
and clean water.


VietNamNet/Viet
Nam News

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