Children find a voice. The best advice is to listen

Birmingham have spent a great deal of effort setting up a Children’s Rights organisation to ensure that children in care get their entitlement to a fair hearing. Advocates are employed to ensure this happens. Problem is it’s not independent of the Social Care and Health Department representatives of which fight shy of criticism. As a City Councillor I was used to doing things a bit differently and as a result a material difference could be, and was made for several young people. Many social workers are brilliant, sometimes their managers less so.
Now we learn that we have a poor record caring for our children as a nation, whereas nearby Holland does a much better job. Why?.
This morning I sat, eyes glazed, as I was updated on my role and duties as a school governor. It all seemed to me to be mechanistic, ensuring target after target is met. Problem is it’s the kids who are at the heart of all this. One thing scientists are always careful of is not to alter the very matter that they are studying, since observation itself can create change. Don’t SATs do just that? Time spent on improving performance are denying all sorts of other experiences that young people should be enjoying: music, expressive arts, just creative play. The very things that do make a difference and inspire. English and maths out of contact doesn’t. It kills you off. Of course schools are aware of this and work hard for their children. Problem is clueless inspectors turn up on the door step, probably failed teachers, and rubbish anything that doesn’t directly relate to mechanistic performance. They should go the circus and work with seals.

Al-Jazeera are publishing a series of articles on children who are experiencing conflict, starting with Gaza. Some children experienced their grandmother die as a suicide bomber. They want to emulate what she did. Another child who has witnessed similar events wants to be a journalist so she can tell everyone about the experiences of people in the prison that is Gaza. Read it Tony Blair, Jack Straw. John Reid study it and comprehend. Oh, so you think they should all be banged up? Well Israel has a fair few Palestinians in its jails – often without the knowledge of their families. How is it New Labour has become so inhumane?
“One of the World’s biggest news stories, in one of the smallest and most claustrophobic strips of land on earth. Gaza is a virtual prison with no way in and hardly any way out.”
PART TWO: Lebanon
“The town of Qana has become synonomous with Lebanon’s tragedy. Believed to be the site where Jesus performed his first miracle of turning water into wine, the town has earned infamy for two massacres of children 10 years apart. The first attack came in 1996, when Israel bombed a UN base sheltering 800 people – most of them children. Over 100 children were killed or maimed.”
PART THREE: Afghanistan
“Afghanistan is said to be the land where God only comes to weep. A place of wild beauty and extreme cruelty, it seems never to have known peace.”

PART FOUR: Democratic Republic of Congo

“The film goes inside the minds of the Congolese child soldiers. What makes an 11 year old child capable of awful brutality? “I saw my father die, then they killed my aunt. I didn’t want to die by machete at home. That’s a pointless death. So I decided to join the militia,” says 13 year old Eric.”
Source: Al-Jazeera 19/2/2007

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