Sixteen-year-old Rita Dhungel received an applause from the crowd when she asked lawmakers to ensure children’s rights, especially their right to education and stay with their family, at the Koteshwor-based venue for public feedback collection on the first draft of constitution, on Monday.
Dhungel told the public opinion collection committee, including CPN-UML lawmaker Bidhya Bhandari, that the entire point of making a new constitution would be meaningless if children were denied access to education .
“Constitution alone cannot ensure prosperity of our country. For that, a country should produce able citizens. And the only way to produce able citizens is providing free and quality education to the children,” said Dhungel, adding that free education up to the secondary level must be provided by the state.
According to Dhungel, ensuring free education up to secondary level would also help control the massive problem of child labour in the country. “Children who have no resource leave their families lured by the prospect of education and fall victims of child labour all the time,” she said.
Children have complained that their rights were not being discussed enough in the feedback collection programmes that started across the country from Monday.
Arnab Gautam, a 15-year-old student from Golfutar, who had come to listen to the public opinion collection centre at Mahankal School said that people were only talking about number of provinces, religion and reservation.
“Unlike other people, children do not know about the provisions in the constitution and those who know a little about it do not get the platform to speak their mind,” said Gautam, adding that children too should be allowed to give their views.
Children’s rights activists have also called for amendments in the draft constitution regarding the rights of children. Yubaraj Ghimire of Children and Women in Social Service and Human Rights, said that the draft constitution, for instance, prohibits child labour at workplaces, but is silent about domestic child domestic workers.
“Children should be provided free education up to secondary level which will help curb child labour. The state should also take responsibility of children who are victims of trafficking and conflict,” said Ghimire.
The draft states that people involved in trafficking and violation of other child rights will be punished and penalised, but is silent about who will take care of such children.
PM: GIve your views openly
Prime Minister Sushil Koirala has urged people to give their views on constitution draft without any hesitation. Addressing a function at Bheri Technical School in Banke district on Monday, Koirala assured that new constitution would respect the views and opinions of the people collected during public opinion campaign. He also warned that the protest against writing new constitution could lose the achievements gained so far. At a time when the prime minister was addressing the function, the activists of Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal had were chanting slogans in favour of Hindu state outside the school’s entrance. They demanded that the new constitution should declare Nepal a Hindu state.