Our nation’s children are our most precious resource, and they must be protected, nurtured, and inspired to become the leaders of tomorrow.
As Trinidad and Tobago joins the international community in commemorating Universal Children’s Day, on November 20, 2017, I call upon all citizens to work to make our country a safer place for all our children, and create the best environment in which they can grow, thrive and fulfill their goals and aspirations.
For the greater part of my career as an educator and as a politician, I have remained dedicated to advocating for, and developing programmes and initiatives that are aimed at helping children grow and develop, through access to education, proper healthcare and nutrition, as well as safety and protection. The wellbeing, care and development of our young ones have always been my priorities, and continue to be priorities of the political party which I lead.
Our country has made significant strides in protecting and ensuring the basic needs of children as recognized in the Declaration of the Rights of the Child and The Convention on the Rights of the child, but we must continue to work, and do more to help our children realize their potential, and become innovators, champions and leaders.
We need to provide avenues to encourage creativity and engender innovation, as our country needs bold and visionary individuals to take us further along a path of development.
The Government which I led was focused on creating that space for our young people to explore their dreams and develop the skills needed for the next wave of industrial revolution – the Digital Economy.
This is why we initiated the school laptop programme, as well as training for teachers in ICT, and piloted “smart” classrooms.
It is disappointing that many of these initiatives have either been discontinued, or watered down by the current administration. It appears as though they do not understand the critical importance of preparing our children today, equipping them with the knowledge, skills and capacity to benefit from the opportunities available in a modern, technologically driven society.
Further, there is little care for the health and wellbeing of our children and citizens, who continue to be deprived of the use of the fully equipped, state of the art Children’s Hospital, which remains unopened. This hospital was designed to be the region’s first digital hospital, which would have led to better service quality, improved efficiencies and savings on key medical resources.
The Children’s Life Fund, which was the first act of the Government which I led, and which saved the lives of more than one hundred children, the future of this fund is uncertain. I have given my commitment to continue to fight for sick children and their parents who may be experiencing difficulties with accessing funding for life-saving care, for which the Children’s Life Fund is intended.
The present administation is failing to honour its obligations under the UN conventions on caring for children and ensuring that no child is deprived of basic needs and rights, and I call upon those in authority to do better.
We all have a role to play in protecting our children, and ensuring that they have the best quality of life in order to achieve their potential. On this Universal Children’s Day I all on all citizens to advocate, promote and celebrate children’s rights to build a better future for our children.
I endorse the view of a former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, who said there is no trust more sacred than the one the world holds with children. He added, “There is no duty more important than ensuring that their rights are respected, that their welfare is protected, that their lives are free from fear and want and that they can grow up in peace.”
I remain dedicated to this mission and I call on all my fellow citizens to recommit to doing everything we can to nurture, educate and protect every child in our beloved nation.
On this occasion of Universal Children’s Day, on behalf of the Opposition, I ask that we work together, towards building a Trinidad and Tobago that is stronger, more prosperous, and filled with opportunities for our children, and for all our citizens.