No children in today's world are happy in the true sense. They do not realise this. Nor do the adults. But their parents, teachers and the elders want them to grow like they have dreamed. Children are constantly in the face of adversities. They can feel it acutely in their later life. In the highly developed countries, children have long been deprived of the traditional carefree times of childhood. Thanks to the pervasive presence of the temptation to the virtual world today, they are largely detached from the mundane life. They find themselves grown up overnight sans childhood. The tales of their parents' childhood effervescence appear incredulous to them. This incredulity cuts so deep into them that they find those halcyon times meaningless to long for.
In the other parts of the globe, extremities of all conceivable kinds keep devouring little boys and girls. In Sub-Saharan Africa, children used to be picked for joining bloody regional battles even a decade ago. Thanks to the interventions by the United Nations, the practice of engaging child soldiers in wars could largely be uprooted. Yet they could not be made completely free of being drawn into violence and mindless savagery. Besides this, innumerable numbers of children go on passing through series of ordeals. Those include hunger, malnourishment, abuses, fleeing homelands and getting trapped in trafficking networks. In the 21st century, the children in Sub-Saharan Africa, Sahel and parts of the Middle East are a doomed segment of strife-torn and poverty-stricken populations.
Bangladesh fought a sanguinary war 46 years ago, in 1971. Scores of innocent children were sucked into the vortex of sufferings. Those accompanied a dastardly genocide, the following exodus and refugee life in a foreign land. The country has not had any war since the one fought for its liberation. In more than four and half decades, the children of the country have found their lives and living standards go up steadily. In the recent years the sector of child education, especially at the primary level, has made great strides. There have been remarkable cuts in the dropout rate. Apart from the reduction in mortality rate, the age-old scourges afflicting under-5 rural children have spectacularly been dealt with. This better condition of the country's children notwithstanding, they cannot be termed purely happy. Unwelcome day-to-day realities and traumas continue to haunt their lives in both rural and urban areas.
The miseries of children in villages stem from their struggle to help earn a living for the family. Many of them join the fight for survival at an early stage. Despite the impressive progress made in child literacy and the primary and secondary education, male children working as helping hand to their fathers is a common rural spectacle. Few of them are able to even complete their pre-primary course. The girl children are more star-crossed. Child marriage begins haunting them as they reach their adolescence. Bluntly speaking, the marriage of a small girl literally cripples her education career. Few rural in-laws are interested to allow their daughters-in-law to continue their studies. This virtually ruins many girls' lives otherwise full of prospects. Marrying girls off at puberty by their parents results in a grim turn in their lives. Sadly enough, it occurs at a tender age. Child marriage has for ages been a curse for the country's girls. The fact that society has stepped into the times of radically modern ideas and series of reforms does not have much impact on the harried rural girl-children. Likewise, those able to escape the shackle of early marriage cannot lead a life befitting their age. At their parental homes, they are made to spend their childhood doing back-breaking household chores.
New horizons have opened to the country's rural enterprising women. Most of them have had to reach their goals by making their way through a number of social adversities. Many have lagged behind. Opportunities elude some others. A common scenario that is encountered in the rural milieu comprises poorly educated women. Only a handful of them are able to complete their secondary school career. The passing out of a girl from school without interruptions and travails would prepare her to face the future challenges in life more boldly. Entrepreneurship develops fruitfully in women who can enjoy their childhood and adolescence. It applies to other careers as well, and is found in both villages and urban areas, irrespective of gender identities.
Childhood does matter in the proper growth of an adult. The cities are no exception. Given the perceived prevalence of moral and ethical bankruptcies among the young adults the state of their childhood causes worries. Today's urban generations in their early twenties have largely grown in the environs that witnessed a major break from their immediate past. Those were the times that just started to get acquainted with the amazing world of electronic communications. Made up of mobile phones and followed soon by the internet and the ubiquitous online world, it brought about a raft of changes in the lifestyle and thoughts of the youths. As years wore on, more and more advanced gadgets entered the public domain. At one stage, the irresistible electronic marvels began devouring the post-adolescence youths. In no time, the syndrome of obsession with a parallel reality struck the country's urban youths. Few of them could be saved from being overpowered by what later came to be known as the virtual world.
It's true the online world has revolutionised communication, and also the way man keeps in touch with one another. For today's post-puberty urban youths the ideal place for socialising is situated online. Outdoor activities have all but petered out. Playgrounds continue to be squeezed or disappear altogether. The old days' child innocence is gone. Children now increasingly find themselves exposed to many hard and concocted realities available online. The virtual world makes a child eventually unable to tell a truth from fiction. This is a trance-like state. The social media sites await a light touch on the phone screen. The whole gamut of realities, pleasant and morbid, flashes onscreen. Thus the Bangladeshi urban children glued to their smart phones like those in the developed countries turn adult before they reach eighteen. Today's adult youths have grown up by spending long hours in a day on mobile phones and the online world. The 21st century children just follow in the steps of their 'older brothers' (Boro Bhai). They get hooked on social networking sites while at their very school stage. Self-imposed isolation gets the better of them.
Children nowadays open their eyes on a world torn by violence, social convulsions and a dreadful darkness. This reality awaits most of the children in developing countries, including Bangladesh, and those in transition. Many children in these dreary times are, however, found to be born in favourable circumstances. It doesn't mean that all children emerging from happy environs will have fulfilling lives in the future. A lot of them go astray, and for various reasons. Those range from faulty upbringing and companionship of questionable elements. Ups and downs in social and family life including deprivations stunt the healthy growth of children from poorer families. Thanks to their being deprived of the basic necessities like proper education, these children are found taking the wrong path. By the time they become young adults, fate of many of them is sealed. No way is left for them to atone for their past misguided lives. At the same time, many children from nondescript backgrounds do not fail to employ their talent into the making of successful careers. They can wonderfully muster their latent abilities for building a fruitful future.
In many respects, childhood, perhaps, is the most critical stage in a person's life. This is due to the fact of its being a highly delicate and impressionable age. It is this very feature that warrants good parental guidance and schooling. The adults can, in no way, shun responsibility towards children. The same goes with society at large. Desolation, squalor and sense of persecution are considered the roots of unhappiness. A child, too, is not free of these afflictions. In some way it is the adult world that spoils the happiness of childhood, the best age in a person's life.
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