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Children's right to play

Children play on a private rental playground at Segun Bagicha in the capital on Wednesday — FE/File
Children play on a private rental playground at Segun Bagicha in the capital on Wednesday — FE/File

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The first-ever International Day of Play, observed on June 11 last, has, in fact, recognised a fundamental child right. One wonders why the international community including the United Nations took so much time to observe such a crucial issue considered integral to children's healthy physical and mental development. When the pandemic forced people around the world to coop themselves up within the four walls of their houses, they could perhaps realise the mental stress suffered from prolonged confinement to their homes. Also, the growing screen addiction among children may have influenced the formation of a public opinion in favour of a worldwide play movement. Thus, on March 25, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the dedication of a day to children's right to play. June 11 is that day for celebration of the power and magic of play every year henceforth.

It is indeed a grim background against which children, particularly those living in urban areas of Asia and Africa, are pitted. A report by the International Day of Play's global network has found that one out of three children in the world has no time for play. As many as 160 million children across the world are forced to work instead of playing and learning. Again, 41 per cent children have been told to stop playing by their parents or neighbours. There are other constrains facing children such as no open and secured space, no playmate, no permission for play. On top of all this, parents and teachers do not consider play important. The survey report has presented the portions of child population varying  between 13 to 31 per cents that face the stumbling block on their way to giving free rein to their physical and mental energy in the open space. They are handicapped without being handicaps. How the condition of the disabled children is needs hardly any elaboration.

Clearly, the present civilisation has failed to take enough care of its young generation. One in four of today's children plays out on the streets compared to their grandparents, three-fourths of whom had enjoyed this liberty. This shows that the rat race parents of today's children have been in for living a better life has exacted a heavy price by way of neglecting their children's balanced development. They put extra and lopsided pressure on their children's education leaving them hardly any time for play. The problem has been compounded further by easy access to the latest gadgets such as smarthphones and computers, tabs etc. Robotic and screen addicted, this generation is losing connection with the real world and getting isolated.

So it has become incumbent on the world community to enshrine play as a fundamental right of every children. It is a daunting challenge in the present context. Children in both urban and rural areas in Bangladesh are now processed through a grinding machine called education system---one that is ill-conceived and ruthless. Those out of education work too hard to have time for play. Learning through play in a collaborative manner brings the best in children. They learn to value knowledge/education, time, empathy, creativity and camaraderie all of which go into developing appreciation for human relations needed so much at this critical juncture of civilisation.

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