More than 500 children from across the country will convene in Kigali today to discuss child rights and protection.
Among the issues the children are expected to discuss at the 10th National Children’s Summit, include investing more in early child development and an appeal to parents and other caretakers to devot more time to their children
The event will also assess the country’s achievements in the last 20 years as far as protecting children and promotion of their rights is concerned.
Most of the children and experts The New Times spoke to yesterday appreciated what has been achieved for Rwandan children over the years such as universal access to education, access to healthcare, and the creation of forums in schools where children can express themselves.
“Our rights are being respected because we are in school, have the right to talk about what we want, and are getting healthcare,” said 15-year-old Leoncia Urayeneza, a participant at the summit from Gatsibo District, Eastern Province.
Her fellow participant, Alex Murenzi,17, from Gasabo District, also commended the government for ensuring that Rwandan children have access to education.
“There is a lot to celebrate. Today Rwandan children have basic education and can access healthcare through community health insurance called Mutuelle de Santé,” he said.
Rwanda introduced free primary and secondary education and currently boasts having significantly invested in expanding access to education from nine-year to 12-year basic education.
But children at today’s summit will ask the government to invest more in 12-year-education schools to ensure that they teach a variety of courses so that students don’t leave their homes to pursue courses like sciences in schools far away from home.
According to François Bisengimana, the official in charge of adoption, protection, and promotion of child rights at the National Commission for Children (NCC), most of children’s wishes at today’s summit are in the education sector.
The official said 90 per cent of what children asked in previous gatherings such as access to education had been achieved but a lot more needs to be done.
He cited early childhood development centres as some of the institutions that children might ask for at today’s meeting.
“The centres are places where parents can leave their children when they go to work. They can also go there to learn parenting skills such as children’s feeding,” he said.
Bisengimana said NCC plans to establish early childhood development centres in all sectors across the country to help parents and their children.
Having these centres can perhaps be an alternative to what teenager Murenzi has asked parents to do.
“We ask parents to spare time for their children. They seem to spend long hours on their jobs, leaving child care to house maids,” he said.
Another participant, Honorine Hirwa Uwase, 17, also said government will be asked to intensify campaigns against child labour and a call for parents to understand that it takes a whole village to raise a child.
“Children should not be subjected to child labour. We have heard about parents who don’t understand child rights and need to be sensitised,” Uwase said.
The annual children’s summit was first organised in 2004 with the aim of creating rights awareness among children and educating them on their obligations as well.
This year’s forum has coincided with celebrations to mark the 25th anniversary of the Child Rights Convention (CRC) in Rwanda.