J8 Day 4
© UNICEF, 2006/Alena Svirid
Russian delegates meet Russian pop star, Dima Bilan.
By John Varoli
Pushkin (St. Petersburg), Russia
Education topped the agenda on the second working day of the Junior 8. The day began with Russian Education and Science Minister Andrei Fursenko speaking before the 64 delegates about the educational challenges of a rapidly-changing world, and the need to inculcate values into youth.
"The main problem is that the knowledge taught at schools does not keep pace with global economic development,’’ said Minister Fursenko. ``Life changes very fast, and we especially see this with information technology changing every five to seven years. Our goal must be to teach children how to learn properly, and make sure they have a sincere desire to want to always improve and acquire new knowledge."
Later in discussion, many children remarked that one of the most crucial factors turning children into intelligent and capable adults is to ensure that qualified and upstanding people teach them. A strong call for teaching ``values’’ was also noted.
One of the most fascinating traits of the Junior 8 delegates is their ability and desire to look beyond their own narrow interests. Most take a global view of problems, and want to solve them multilaterally.
``Primary education in developing countries has to be made available to everyone, and there should be emphasis on gender equality so that girls, which in some countries are considered second-class citizens, get the same education as boys,’’ said James Goodall, 13, a delegate from the United Kingdom, who hopes to work in computer science later in life. ``Everyone at the J8 pretty much has the same views on this issue, which makes it much easier to get things done.’’
Among some of the other suggestions offered today were:
Train teachers locally in developing nations
Free and mandatory education for all children
Free school meals and transport to school
Bring in volunteers from developed nations
Work with parents to convince them of the advantages of an education
Set up special TV stations for educational purposes that will reach to remote areas
Send school supplies to the developing world
``Education is the key thing, which impacts every other issue: HIV; intolerance and violence; economic progress; whatever,’’ added Gary Farlow, 14, a delegate from the United Kingdom, who aspires to be either a physicist of a marine biologist. ``When people are educated they are qualified to be economically productive and to live their lives in a more constructive manner.’’
In related news, the day ended with UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman meeting St. Petersburg City Govnernor Valentina Matvienko, who is a close ally of President Vladimir Putin.
Ms. Matvienko spoke about the progress in child welfare made in her city since she came to power in 2003, and expressed interest in joining the Child Friendly City Initiative.
``We are ready to implement the recommendations of this initiative,’’ said Governor Matvienko. ``And we are ready to make our city more friendly for children.’’