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None of the political parties in Bangladesh, including the leftists, keep children on their mind when they design their manifestos, said noted educationist Rasheda K Chowdhury.
As the political manifestos are targeted towards the voters, who are grownups, issues of protecting child rights remain absent in those, she said.
“The parties tend to fail to see that the children of today will be voters once they are 18-years-old. In fact, they are the future leaders. So, the political parties will eventually gain if they focus on the development of children,” said the former adviser to an interim caretaker government in an interview with The Daily Star.
Even though the leftist parties claim to be inclusive and progressive, the issues of child rights are never prioritised in their manifestos, she said.
Although the parties talk about development agendas like reducing child and maternal mortality, they never focus on creating child-friendly schools, curriculum and environment, she said.
For some parties, she said, the focus on children can be summed up in a single sentence: Children will not be involved in political programmes.
In Rasheda’s opinion, political parties should make specific pledges and announce programmes rather than making empty promises.
Moreover, the promises that are made by the parties are often breached, she said. “The parties do not only involve children in their programmes but make the underprivileged children risk their lives for their programmes.”
Commenting on how political programmes harm education, she said, “People must force the parties into promising that they will never hold programmes that can harm educational environment.”
Programmes like hartal do much harm to the educational institutions, especially schools, she said. “Students of primary schools do not get enough contact hours with their teachers anyway.
“Due to frequent hartals children get even fewer learning hours in schools,” she said.
She thinks that the parties should exempt schools and other educational institutions from hartal.
Citing the example of Nepal, she said, political parties always keep educational institutions out of conflict by declaring them as “peace zones”.
Emphasising on giving due importance to child rights, she said, “Issues of health and education are mentioned as development agenda in the manifestos, but they should be regarded as rights.”
First of all, the leaders themselves must understand what child rights are. If they are to bring about a real change, they must believe in the cause.