20 Years - The Convention on the Rights of the Child

Kondwani Joe Banda

Education and Recreation: Equal rights in the development of Zambian childrenFor many children around the world, learning new things every day and playing games is what we know best. It helps keep us alive, bouncy, and excited. In Zambia, over the last few years, there has been a general increase in the number of government-run schools that have been opened, offering instruction, but more or less these are only for primary education and for a small amount of money.  In some schools the children’s right to recreation has been ignored, despite the constant reminders that children need time to play. Most community or rural schools concentrate on providing intense education. Recess time is short, and at the end of lessons children are sent home. In many neighbourhoods, there are no parks, or if there are, they are often poorly maintained and unsafe. This brings us to the question: What exactly is, or should be, the relationship between school time and leisure time?
 
School and sport: a vital pairing
Education and recreation are two key aspects that play a large role in the socio-economic development of a child. Their interaction helps develop a child’s character, personality and talents, and encourages them to participate in activities; this, in turn, empowers them to create and build up life skills and techniques. The Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 20 November 1989, explicitly outlines children’s rights to both education and recreation. The document has also truly depicted the ways in which children should exercise their rights and how the State must enforce them. In the two decades of the Convention’s existence, many positive changes for children’s rights have been made in countries all over the world.
 
However, there are still many children who do not have full access to their rights. In both the deep rural and urban areas of Zambia such cases are prevalent. The condition of a typical Zambian child who has been denied these rights is very terrible, and they most likely experience repercussions on their mental growth, thus inhibiting their opportunity to dream and build up or discover their talents. Children who do not have access to their rights may be forced to work at a tender age, rearing livestock or selling vegetables on the streets to raise money for their parents. Unfortunately, many Zambian children who go through such an ordeal turn out to be rather looked down upon by members of the community.
 
As a UNICEF Zambia Child Ambassador, I envision numerous effective methods that can be used to raise awareness about the need for play. Through the media, by word of mouth and with the participation of children and the members of our communities, projects aimed at the betterment of existing recreational facilities and the creation of new ones are being undertaken. Children themselves can use the media to advocate for their concerns on this issue. Governments and organizations should be encouraged to donate and sponsor such projects if they see the children taking responsibility for themselves.

Yet the challenges that both the Zambian children and the Government face are numerous. One major problem is the distribution of resources to fund projects that pertain to schooling, recreation and amusement activities. Access to school is limited and education is costly, thus not all children are able to attain full and quality education.

Parks, playgrounds and recreation centres are also scarce. The tightness of money results in governments focusing on health and the economy instead of recreation and education. Another restriction is the negative attitude that some divisions of the society have towards such ventures. Many would agree that spending on leisure is a waste of money and that limited focus would be better spent if used to improve social standards. Nevertheless, there are various solutions and positive future prospects. Government officials and children both know that the Convention has been agreed upon and that the goals it has set need to be achieved in the near future.

Changing policy through participation
Currently in Zambia it is, to a large degree, hard for a child to have his or her ideas heard by the Government. Direct participation by children is limited, and for this reason the Governments of Zambia and many other countries must make child participation a prominent feature in their policymaking. Children worldwide must be taken seriously and given a podium to express their intelligent and fresh opinions. With the input of children themselves, many cost-cutting measures and inexpensive means may be surfaced to work around tight budgets.

Also, if the community at large is encouraged to partake in activities with reference to the Convention, a lot will be done for the children at all levels of the general public. The achievement of the right to education and recreation depends on all of us. Personally, the intersection of education and recreation has impacted my life in many ways. It has given me a broad interest in sectors of life dealing with sport and developing my skills and talents in them. I believe that it will indeed help the children of the world by giving them confidence in themselves and making them highly productive members of their communities. Their view of life will be changed, resulting in a new generation of proactive, hardworking and determined individuals. If the happiness of children is put as a priority on the agenda of governments, communities and children themselves, the true strength of the nation will show, just like that of a tree planted by the banks of a river.

Kondwani Joe Banda is a 17-year-old UNICEF Child Ambassador from Lusaka, Zambia. Kondwani’s passion for UNICEF’s work became evident when he volunteered with flood victims, and he hopes to influence and change people’s minds to show that a person does not need to have a million dollars to change the world in a positive way but that we can all do small things with big hearts. He lives by the 2HD principles – honesty, hard work, diligence and determination. When Kondwani completes school, he would like to become a forensic journalist.

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