Children’s rights as a ‘Nobel’ cause3 min read
Kundapur (Udupi): Barely 30 kilometres from Manipal, an earthy atmosphere complete with brick houses, painted walls and open breezy halls, is the setting of what might be the winner of “world’s most prestigious prize” – the Nobel Peace Prize.
Over the last 20 years, this 6.25 acre barren land at Kundapur in Udupi has been transformed into a hub of activities like vocational classes on a particularly dry afternoon or cultural events on a Friday night for working children. A residential school, Namma Bhoomi (‘Our Earth’ in Kannada), is a training facility under the aegis of Concerned for Working Children (CWC), and provides a safe environment for children where they can learn without worrying about their next meal. CWC is one among the 43 organisations nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize 2012.
For nearly 30 years CWC has been working for the cause of child empowerment with the aim of respecting the opinion of the children and making them active participants in every decision that concerns them. Realising this idea, CWC has successfully helped the rural children form and run unique Makkala Panchayats (Children’s Panchayats). With their inception in Udupi district, these panchayats or local assemblies run parallel to other local-self governing bodies in villages across Karnataka.
The NGO was nominated for the peace prize by three members of the Norwegian Parliament. “Working children are struggling, they are ignored and there is no option for them to say this. Our organization is about the struggle of children to see recognition, it is not our work, it is our principle. With this nomination, for the first time, child participation and children’s rights will be universally seen,” said Ganapthi M.M, Assistant Director of CWC.
“The Environment here, the information they give, the other children, all these make me happy,” said 16 year old Krithika. “My main aim is to continue my education. I want to do my PUC (Pre-University Course) and then Diploma,” she added confidently before moving on to attend her Hindi class. This is her eight month in Namma Bhoomi and she is prepping for the upcoming class 10 exams.
Home to 92 children at present, Namma Bhoomi has seen 1200 children pass through its gates, 80 percent of whom are financially stable. After Class 10, Krithika will be given the option of either continuing her education or taking up a vocational course like weaving, carpentry, construction, computer applications, beauty and garments and electrical technician. Teaching tools for intensive guidance in basic reading and writing are also provided by CWC under its ‘Appropriate Education Pedagogy’ to ‘make education both more meaningful and joyful.’
Interestingly, the recruiting method of the school is not just through individual applications. Most Makkala Panchayats recognise the needy children and present their recommendations. Some children are also rescued by the Child Welfare Committee or arrested by the police and brought in for counseling.
T.Shivananda Shetty, Training Coordinator, Namma Bhoomi, credited its community of children for the success. He said, “Everyone says ‘children are the citizens of tomorrow’, we’ve reversed it to say children are the citizens of today. Only difference is they don’t have the power to vote. For us, democracy ends with vote; we don’t really feel it in our lives. So here, along with theory, they feel democracy when they participate in the Gram Sabha meeting or are involved with the finance budget. With children’s participation, they learn to value things.”
The winner of Nobel Peace Prize will be announced in October and will receive a medal, a personal diploma and 1.5 million dollars as prize money.
Sub-edited by: Garima Goel