International Elders-Children Day held in Vavuniya
[TamilNet, Sunday, 12 October 2003, 23:56 GMT]
“Society should not forget the fact that, as a result of war, children have been facing severe problems with respect to education and nutrition. Poor nutrition affects the development of the body and the brain. If these effects on the children are not immediately addressed, nothing could ever be done later, as the effects would be permanent. Society will then be faced with insurmountable problems in the future,” said Dr. Arumugam Ketheeswaran, the deputy director of health services in Vavuniya, speaking at the international Elders-Children day held at the Vavuniya town hall Sunday.
The event was presided over by Mr. Sivalingam Sathyaseelan, the divisional secretary for Vavuniya. Mr. Ganesh, the Government Agent (GA) for Vavuniya, was the chief guest.
“It is the parents who bring up their children, nurture them and make them into solid citizens. The children should treat their elderly parents with decency and kindness. It will be of no use to leave elders to die a lonely death and then conduct their funeral rites on a grand scale,” said Mr. Ganesh.
The GA said that according to surveys conducted by the UNICEF, in the Vavuniya district that consisted of 1,40,000 people, more than 5000 children were not attending school. Among those attending school, many drop out. Children are being employed and some parents send their children out to work, he said.
“While elders need to be respected and cared for, children’s rights need to be ensured and society has an obligation to make children become solid citizens. No one should ignore children’s rights,” said Mr. Ganesh.
“Children should be given love, but they should be brought up in such a way that they develop good character and discipline. Children who get on the wrong path should be guided on the correct path,” Mr. Ganesh said. “Parents and guardians should not allow children to go astray. Everyone should work to make sure children and youth respect law and order and be cultured and aware of social obligations.”
Dr. Ketheeswaran, who was a guest speaker at the event, said, “The rights of children and elders should be properly recognized, and they should be properly looked after. An awareness of the need to respect their rights should be created at various levels of society. The absence of such recognition has caused many problems in society. That is why the Children-Elders Day is observed internationally.
“It is not enough to celebrate days like this; everyone should become aware of problems faced by children and elders as a result of social changes, and proper solutions should be found for these problems.
“Children under age 14 should be in school. It is their right. Parents should ensure that they are in school and stop forcing them to work.
“Poor nutrition due to the war has affected them, both physically and psychologically. When there is not enough nutrition, brain development is affected, not just the development of the physical body.
“There was a time when daughters opted to stay home instead of working, and they took care elders in the family. Social changes, such as female children getting advanced education and staying far away from home for their work, have left elders uncared for.
“Those who went to foreign countries as a result of the war think it is enough to provide the basic necessities to their parents, such as food, clothing, shelter and some other facilities. But elders are not just looking for such necessities; they want love, kindness and emotional closeness from their children. As children fail to provide such support, elders develop several psychological problems.”
Mr. S.N.G.Nathan of the Federation of Village Development Committees in Vavuniya, Mr. V. Kumarasingam, the deputy director of the Northeast provincial, “Thamilaruvi” Mr. T. Sivakumaran, Mr. K. Amirthalingam, the Kudiyiruppu Village development council, S. Thirugnanasambandar, the district deputy commissioner of elections in Vavuniya, Mr. K.A. Senthilnathan, the head of the All Ceylon Tamil Congress in Vavuniya, and many other prominent figures in Vavuniya participated at the event.