Wednesday, October 1, 2008

When I Grow Up

Today is Children's Day.

I grew up during the times when little children were preferably seen and not heard. I often envied the kind of freedom given to the adults, in movement and expression and I wished I had the same too. To me, the adults were 'powerful' and I naturally equated that to 'importance'.

During my childhood, I felt my importance being temporarily elevated on two particular days. One, on my birthday and the other, on Children's Day.

All thanks to the United Nations which suggested in 1954 that, all nations should observe a Universal Children's Day as "a day of worldwide fraternity and understanding between children and of activity promoting the welfare of the world's children." The date chosen was 20 November but countries may designate a different day.

Schools in Singapore first celebrated Children's Day on 23 October 1961 and the date was later changed to 1 Oct. On this happy day every year, children in Singapore do not have to attend school. Else where, such as Japan, it is a happy day for all as the day is a national public holiday (May 5).

To the Singapore government, today might not be such a happy day as they are probably reminded of the dwindling number of celebrants. Yes, it is that 'can-we-have-more-babies' issue again!

In 2006, 23% of our populations aged below 18 and this percentage is expected to drop.

In 2007, the Singapore birth rate stood at 9.17 births/1,000 population. Demographically, this is supposed to be unimpressive and worrying. To make matter worse, the rate is a declining one and in 2008, it is down to 8.99 births/1,000 population.
OK. Let's face it. Singaporeans are not making enough babies and the government has no choice but to import 'ready made' people from abroad.

In ST 27 Sep, it was reported that "Singapore's population has shot up by a record 5.5 per cent to 4.84 million this June. It is the biggest annual spike since collection of such data began in 1871." Reading into the details, this increase was largely attributed to immigrants.

While we might whine at the shortage of babies here, I am mindful that our children are the fortunate ones. In many parts of the world, much more needs to be done to protect the children from starvation, AIDS, child labor, trafficking and child pornography. Many of them are without the most basic shelters, food and education.

Over here, parents lament about too much homework for their children and grumble about trivialities. I often feel that the parents here need to be given a good 'be-thankful-with-what-we-have" lesson and behave more constructively.

I have little doubt that our children are going to grow up world-ready. Most importantly, I hope that they will be world-ready with the right world-view.

Happy Children's Day!

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