Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 28 March 2010





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Act to provide stronger legal foundation :

Protecting the rights of children

Children have their own rights; with their own requirements such as food, security, education, but above all they need love and freedom. Unfortunately, laws regarding their rights have been neglected for far too long. The laws currently in existence had been formulated over seven decades ago.

However, the Cabinet granted approval recently to a memorandum submitted by Minister of Child Development and Women's Empowerment Sumedha G. Jayasena to transfer the National Policy on 'Early Childhood Care and Development' into an Act. The objective is to provide a strong legal foundation and to formulate a uniform system for the whole country.

The most important period of a person's life is the first seven years, the personality development during which, would shape the rest of his/her life.

"During this period of time a child passes through two stages," explained Chairman, National Child Protection Authority, Jagath Wellawatta.

"These are the first three years spent with the family and two more years at pre-school."

Each period has its own priorities. But the busy lifestyle of parents today has adversely affected children in their first few years. "In most cases, both parents go to work, leaving the child with grandparents or a servant", said Wellawatta. As he explained, the concept of child rearing of the new generation is different to that of the old. "When the children are left with grandparents during the day and when parents try to raise children their own way when they return home from work, there is a conflict of concepts, which would affect the personality development in children," he said.

"When parents leave their children with under-educated servants belonging to a totally different social strata, there is bound to be conflicts." Their (servants') thinking is sometimes totally different. He explained, these servants are not professionals. Under such circumstances, continuous personality development cannot be observed in most children today.

Personality development

In such cases the only option would be to have the child enrolled in a day care centre. But when a child is sent to a day care centre at the tender age of two-and-a-half years, he/she is deprived of the much needed love and freedom at that age. "Moreover, there is no formal system for institutions like day care centres in Sri Lanka", said Wellawatta. As he explained, even playing becomes a formal activity at such institutions. "This again affects the personality development of the child." And a child's personality development should not be hindered till at least the age of seven.

Finding solutions to such problems connected to our culture can prove to be difficult. "With the legal backing in the Act, these standards can be monitored easily and training provided where necessary," Wellawatta said. He suggested that parents as well as teachers should be trained. "Teachers should be trained to disregard social or personal problems when dealing with children. They should not be semi-professional, but fully professional."

The National Policy on Early Childhood Care and Development, which came into effect in 2004, covers national, provincial, district, divisional and village level committees. But not being an Act, it lacked the legal authority to enforce law. "Earlier it was just a policy. It was not mandatory for day care centres and pre-schools to adhere to these guidelines," explained Yamuna Perera, Director Children's Secretariat, Ministry of Child Development and Women's Empowerment. "In instances where the policy guidelines were violated, we did not have the authority to take legal action," she said.

According to Perera, the subject of pre-schools has been devolved under the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. "We have encountered several obstacles when attempting to maintain standards. Statutes of some Provincial Councils are used as guidelines for pre-school activities without making use of the National Policy."


She explained that the objective of formulating an Act is to maintain a uniform system countrywide in spite of individual differences of opinion. "We are already working together with Provincial Councils," Perera said. She also pointed out that an Act would help to strengthen the coordination process from provincial to district level, something that has proved to be a challenge due to differences in administrative structures.

A committee has been appointed to formulate the draft which will be presented to Parliament for approval. The committee consisting of 16 members, which includes representatives of authorities such as the Ministries of Child Development and Women's Empowerment, Education, Health and Local Government and Provincial Councils and the Attorney General's Department, Legal Draftsmen's Department, Child and Women's Bureau and other experts in the field are now involved in drafting the bill.

In spite of several attempts by authorities, transforming the National Policy on Early Childhood Care and Development has been dragging on.

"The existing laws are nearly 70 years old", said Minister of Child Development and Women's Empowerment Sumedha G. Jayasena. "With no proper legal foundation lawsuits have been dragging on for years." She explained that all pre-schools, early childhood development centres and day care centres should be maintained as per-minimum level of standards and should be registered with the Government.

Such an Act could finally provide solutions to long-existing problems faced by the country's children.

- SP

Donate Now |
LANKAPUVATH - National News Agency of Sri Lanka
Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL)

| News | Editorial | Finance | Features | Political | Security | Sports | Spectrum | Montage | Impact | World | Magazine | Junior | Obituaries |


Produced by Lake House Copyright 2010 The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd.

Comments and suggestions to : Web Editor