The Philippine government has still a lot of work to do with regards to the promotion and protection of children’s rights and welfare. Twenty-five (25) years after the declaration of United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), children still suffer from extreme poverty, hunger and inaccessibility to social services, said Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns Chairperson and Save Our Schools Network Spokesperson Madella Santiago during the workshop and kite-flying activity of children in Bantayog ng mga Bayani today.

The activity dubbed Mga saranggola ng daing at hiling was conducted in time for the 25th year observance of UNCRC. It highlighted issues and challenges that continue to deprive children their rights. Children from urban poor communities in Metro Manila and lumad communities in Mindanao who participated in the event shared their plight as well as their wishes and demands through the kite-making and kite-flying activity.

A Manobo child from Talaingod Davao del Norte, Divina, 17 years old, said that poverty and lack of access to nutritious food and health service have made many children in their community malnourished and easily susceptible to diseases. Napakahirap ng buhay sa aming komunidad, madalas kamote, balinghoy o mais ang pagkain namin doon, kaya naman marami ring mga bata ang nagkakasakit she said.

Citing the recent data of Social weather Station (SWS), Santiago mentioned that around 12 million families consider themselves poor while 15 million children experience hunger. Due to poverty and/or unemployment of their parents, around 5.5 million children, both rural and urban, are forced into child labor – mostly hazardous and exploitative labor.

Aside from poverty and hunger, children participants raised the problem of inaccessibility to education services and the glaring issue of military encampment and attacks on schools, especially on lumad community schools.

Another Manobo child Ronald shared that they were given with the opportunity to attend school because of the learning center established in their community, not by the government, but by NGOs and church groups. However, military operations in the hinterlands hamper lumad children from continuing their study as soldiers use their school as military camp or barracks.

Natatakot kami dahil laging nagpapaputok ng baril ang mga sundalo sa likod ng aming paaralan. Hindi rin kami makapag-concentrate dahil lagi silang pumupunta sa aming classroom at pinatatawag ang aming teacher, said Ronald Bongcalas, student of Salugpongan Ta tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center (STTICLC) in Talaingod, Davao del Norte. STTICLC is among the 214 lumad community schools in Mindanao that have been subjected to military attacks in the form of encampment and destruction of school facilities and harassment of teachers and students.

The Manobo students went to Manila for their cultural caravan Og Iskwela Puron (to school, I wish) to share their plight as lumads. More than 300 contingents from Manilakbayan ng Mindanao 2014 is about to set foot in Metro Manila tomorrow, November 21st. The Manilakbayan is also calling for food and genuine peace in the island.

After the workshop and kite-making activity, children simultaneously released the colorful kites, bearing their wishes and aspirations, into the air. Among their wishes were Pagkain sa aming hapag-kainan, Edukasyon para sa lahat, and Kapayapaan sa aming paaralan at Komunidad.(Food on our plate, Education for all and Peace in our schools and community)

These kites symbolize the children’s continuing search for a better quality of life.  They also remind us of the government’s failure to address social issues affecting children which have long been demanded by the Filipino people, Santiago ended.###

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