NEW DELHI: Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu said on Wednesday children should be enabled to learn as many languages as possible without neglecting or ignoring their mother tongue, and noted that 'bhawna' (sentiments) and 'bhasha' (language)" go hand in hand.
Speaking at the 'National Summit for Every Child in India' organised by UNICEF in Parliament to mark 30 years of United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child, he also called for special focus on mother tongue.
There is another dimension of good education which is the children's right to "learn and use the language and customs of their families, whether these are shared by the majority of people in the country or not" as Article 30 of the Convention specifies, Naidu said.
The United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child (commonly abbreviated as CRC or UNCRC) is a human rights treaty which sets out the civil, political, economic, social, health and cultural rights of children.
"We must encourage our mother tongue because 'bhasha' (language) and 'bhawna' (emotions) go hand in hand. Mother tongue is like eyes and other languages are like spectacles. Children must be taught their mother tongue first," the vice president said.
Naidu stressed on the need to ensure that arts and sciences be given equal importance in school curriculum.
"We should continue to encourage young children to excel in creative pursuits. Innovation and imagination must be proactively encouraged. Arts and sciences must be given equal weight in our curriculum. Scientific temper and artistic sensibility must go hand in hand.
"We must give each child a head start in life through good early childhood care and education," he said.
Naidu said the next area of focus must be nutrition and it is appalling that at the all-India level, 21 per cent of children under the age of five years are wasted and 36 per cent of children under the age of five years are underweight.
"Good health is the absolute precondition to a fulfilling life. I am happy that the government has taken the initiative to address this concern through the POSHAN Abhiyan. We must recommit ourselves with renewed determination to the principles of CRC," he said.
The vice president also urged parliamentarians to prioritise child welfare and evolve meaningful child-centred policies, and empower and equip children to be the change agents and the transformational leaders of the future.
He also called for providing "quality education" which is affordable and inclusive.
Expressing concern over incidents of exploitation, cruelty, abuse, crime, trafficking, and discrimination faced by children around the world, the vice president stressed on the needed to address these formidable threats that endanger children, on a war footing.
"We must begin by ensuring education to every single child. No child is to be left behind," he said.
"Pandit (Jawaharlal) Nehru, the first prime minister of India, whose birth anniversary is celebrated every year as Children's Day had said, 'Children are like buds in a garden and should be carefully and lovingly nurtured, as they are the future of the nation and the citizens of tomorrow'," Naidu said.
"Our children are our future and in order to make this future a bright one, every child must have a childhood in all its fullness, surrounded by protective families and communities free from violence and with the opportunity to thrive," he said.
The Vice President said that parliamentarians and legislators are uniquely positioned to ensure that such policies and programmes are crafted that ensure a bright future for children.
"I urge you to keep the welfare of the children of your constituencies as an overriding priority in your development efforts. A positive start has indeed been made by the Right to Education Act, 2009. But it is not sufficient to just provide any education. We must have quality education," he said.
"We must have affordable, relevant education. We must have education that empowers children with the competencies of the 21st century. We must have inclusive education by placing special focus on securing education to the more vulnerable and differently-abled children," Naidu said.
He also said that according to UNESCO estimates, among five-year-olds with disabilities, three-fourth do not go to any educational institution nor do one-fourth of the differently-abled children in the age group of 5-19 years.