A Model United Nations (MUN) conference was organised by Lady Sriram College on 16 and 17 February. However, unlike regular MUNs, this one wasn't a niche, elite affair. Though there were the usual debates, discussions and resolutions passed, the delegates were children from low-income households who were part of Child Rights and You’s (CRY) projects.
While these children spoke about the struggles and the system of education in countries they were representing, they also brought to light the many realities they face every day in their own spaces.
The committee was convened to discuss ways to strengthen the education sector with special emphasis on developing nations. It seemed quite fitting that this issue was debated in a committee comprising children, and not adults.
Here is what few of the participants had to say:
Harish (14), Australia
Fourteen-year-old Harish was a delagate for Australia, and he seemed to have done a lot of reading on the subject. Speaking about racism in Australia, he said:
"There’s a lot of racism in Australia. They talk really badly and even beat up children who are not fair in colour. I read somewhere about how teachers too don’t treat children well if they are not Australian. When I was reading up more on this, I read about the many things they do and say to Indians too. We don’t really have such violent racism in India, at least not in my school. Sure, sometimes we call each other ‘kaalu’ but that’s just for fun. We don’t really intend to make them feel bad. I’ve seen girls take jibes at other girls for fun." - Harish
Speaking about his own experience in school, Harish said, “Oh! When I think of it now, no one has ever made fun of me or the way I look!”
Durga (17), Venezuela
Durga, a delegate for Venezuela, is a 17-year-old who was very glad to be present at the MUN.
"I love being here. I love how people want to hear my point of view. I love how solutions are being made instead of all of us only complaining about everything that is wrong. Last night after going home, I thought about all of these issues and the many solutions we can have to the problems being discussed today. I’m excited about the next session now. We’re discussing resolutions and solutions to many of the issues we’d debated and touched on yesterday." - Durga
She said that the two days of the MUN had set her thinking about a number of things. Durga wants to come back to LSR to “study like all these didi’s here.”
Durga also threw light on the subject of menstruation.
" I was never told about menstruation or what periods were for the longest time. And I remember my best friend not having any clue why she was bleeding when she got her periods She thought she had an illness. It was only when she came home from school and told her mother that she got to know that it was okay. Watching my friends talk about it so freely and openly here at the MUN made me so happy. I wish my friend was here with me at the MUN today. She’d have been so happy!" - DurgaVaibhav (14), Mexico
Fourteen-year-old Vaibhav was a delegate for Mexico. The fact that a number of languages are taught in Mexican schools piqued his interest greatly.
"I’ve read something very interesting about schools in Mexico. They teach you a lot of languages. The children there know how to speak in English, Spanish, German and many more languages. Imagine? It would be so cool when you know these many languages. I love reading and I’d love to read books in languages apart from Hindi." - Vaibhav
When asked what languages they teach in his school, Vaibhav said:
"My school only teaches us Hindi and sometimes in English."
And when asked if he would want to learn more languages, he said, “I’d love to. But I have very little time now. Exams aa rahe hai (exam are approaching).”
Akash (17), USA
Akash, a 17-year-old representing USA, was quite shocked that a student could get a gun in a school in Florida.
"When I was reading up on my country, I read about the shooting that happened in Florida. I don’t entirely blame the boy. He was young and knew little of the consequences of his action. I blame the schools. I blame the teachers and the ones who make the law. How did he acquire the gun so easily? Why isn’t strict checking mandatory in schools? It was surprising how, just like my school here, even in the US children can sneak cigarettes, beedis and things that can harm other children." - Akash
What would he like to tell the parents of the children who lost their lives in the shooting?
"I don’t know. I’m sorry. I can’t even imagine how much you’re hurt. I’m really sorry."Satyam (12), Switzerland
Twelve-year-old Satyam was a delegate for Switzerland. He wanted to know more about transgender rights.
"The part that I learnt the most from, from the discussion today, was the bit where we started talking about rights of people who are not boys or girls. I wonder where they study! I don’t see them in our schools." - Satyam
When asked what would he like to be when he grew up, Satyam said:
"I want to be an engineer. A mechanical engineer. I want to work with big machines. There’s an uncle in my colony. He’s a doctor at Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi and has a big house. I’d like to grow up and make a lot of money and built a house like that. And my house will have a big carom board. And we’ll play tennis in the lawns. And my parents will have a room of their own. And I’ll have a car too, a Mercedes car!"Nitesh (11), Burundi
Nitesh, 11, asserted emphatically that “sometimes grown ups can be wrong too.”
"You know what? Sometimes grown ups can be wrong too. Sometimes they need to update the information they teach us too. And that’s completely okay. Just because you’re a grown up, doesn’t mean you can’t forget facts; that you should stop learning. So many of my teachers need to read up on a lot of things before they teach us. Sometimes I feel like correcting them but I feel it’ll upset them, so I don’t. They should have handwriting books and handwriting classes too. I barely understand what my Hindi teacher writes when she writes on the board sometimes!" - NiteshSangeeta (12), Nigeria
Sangeeta, 12, a delegate for Nigeria, was appalled at the subjugation of women in Nigeria.
" Would you believe me if I told you there are so many child marriage taking place and children being sold in Nigeria? I didn’t believe it at first myself, but I was surprised when I read the numbers. And they sell girls too. Just like in India. I’ve seen young didi’s get married even in my basti many, many years ago. I didn’t know it was a bad thing then. But Aarti didi, who was as young as 13, got married when her mother was unwell and everyone thought she would pass away. I remember how excited I was at her wedding. I don’t know if Aarti didi would be just as excited, now that I think of it." - SangeetaKomal (16), Saudi Arabia
Komal, a 16-year-old delegate for Saudi Arabia, was glad that the status of girls was improving in that country.
"You might think girls in Saudi Arabia don’t have too many rights. But believe me, they’re working hard to better the status of girls there too. Girls there now have the right to vote and even stand up in municipal elections. The government is also looking to provide them with better job opportunities. You know how I love wearing shorts and dresses and salwaar kameez? I’m excited to wear a saree for my farewell at school this year. And I keep hearing people say, girls in Saudi Arabia don’t have the right to wear what they like. But I’m just wondering if maybe, this is what they’d like to wear. If maybe they wear pretty dresses and salwaar kameez under their burqa. And even if they don’t, maybe they’re really happy wearing the burqa." - Komal
She happily pointed out that she had seen some of them wear designer burqas in pictures. Komal also stressed on each individual’s right to decide for themselves how they want to dress.
"If they don’t come to tell me what I should be wearing, who am I to tell them what to wear, don’t you think?" - Komal . Read more on India by The Quint.An MUN With a Difference: Children from CRY Share Their World ViewI Heard Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Anti-Muslim Rants as Early as 2002 . Read more on India by The Quint.