Bài thi đạt giải trong cuộc thi Writing Contest 2017 – Empowering Children’ Voices

July 12th, 2017 at 2:55 am | by admin

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Nguyễn Thụy Quỳnh Mai – 1997
Ho Chi Minh City University of Education

Imagine you are in a happy family, in which you play the role of the mother or the father. You are strolling with your beloved son to school on his first day. The atmosphere is so peaceful and happy that you feel inclined to say “Hey! You want some ice cream, son? Today is your lucky day!”. You do not even wait for your son’s answers, but you make your way to the ice cream vendor nearby right away, and even give the seller boy a nice tip. After your son has finished the treat you bought with a smile and left a trace on his chubby cheek, you wipe it out for him and throw the used tissue into the green bin on the street. As soon as you reach the school gate, the school bell rings the second time. There is only another girl standing with you and your son now outside the school. Just before he makes his first step to his very first school, you do not forget to kiss him and wish him luck, like many parents do. Watching him running like a free wind to his class makes your heart feel warm. It is probably because you are well aware of the fact that your son has hit one milestone in his life and he will hit others one day to become someone you are proud of.

Reaching this line, you think the story above has a ‘pink’ theme, don’t you? But actually, it does not. Let’s talk about the girl at the school gate. If you think she is a student like your son, then forget about it, because she is just a little poor child who can’t afford to be one. Standing outside the educational institution which is supposed to include every child, looking at the peers playing together, learning simple maths like 1 plus 1 equals 2,… she is overwhelmed with a strong desire to be one of them, but she can’t. Why? How about asking her parents? They are those who have a frame of mind that says girls do not need formal education, they just have to do housework and wait for a wealthy guy to show up. It is a very ‘modern’ mindset, isn’t it?

After the first irregular character in this story has been revealed, could you guess the second one? What about the boy who sells ice cream? It would be simple if this was just a man selling ice cream to earn a living. But a boy, an underage one selling ice cream to make money is a big question. Have you ever thought about the possibility or the reality that such a young kid has to wander the streets, trying to find a way to have money because he is forced to do so? Selling lottery tickets, polishing shoes, begging for money,… all these ventures are for his father’s “sake”. Making money for alcohol and gambling is hard, but coercing someone into doing the hard work for you to waste on those social evils is far easier. If the children do not obey, then violence is the way.

The tragedies have not come to an end yet. I shall point out to you the most revolting detail in this story. Do you remember the green bin into which you threw the used tissue? In that dump of useless trash, there is a newborn child wrapped crudely in a thin blanket, crying weakly with fewer and fewer breaths it can take. You may not know the meaning of this baby’s cry, but you can figure out that it has been abandoned by the ones who gave birth to it, who do not deserve to be called “parents” due to their lack of responsibility. That little creature cannot even decide its own fate. All it can do is to survive until there is a kind hand reaching out to drag it out of the darkness.

Having gone through the three unexpected cases above, you feel so lucky to have a happy family in this imaginary journey, don’t you? But this last plot twist will completely change what you have thought until now. Let’s begin with this: Your son hates ice cream. He is even disgusted by it. Surprised? How can you not know that? It is because you did not give him a chance to reply to your offer. But hold on, he smiled, didn’t he? This is a detail of great intrigue. I’d like to raise a question: Was that a contented smile or an affected one? You see, even if your son could tell you not to buy the ice cream, he didn’t want to. The sole reason is that his mind has already been “programmed” to dance attendance on adults, including you. If he fails to obey, he will be your disappointment or the black sheep of the family. This is the factor that compels him to follow the predetermined path you have set to become the one you are proud of rather than the one he is proud to be.

The aforementioned storylines are not simply a figment of imagination. Unfortunately, they are unfolding as every second passes by in reality. We are surrounded by millions of cases of children’s rights infringement from the most forgivable situations in which even the closest caretakers do not know they are invading the children’s rights to the most alarming circumstances that make the whole world tremble. A crucial question needs to be posed at this point: What are rights and what are children’s rights? Rights are moral or legal claims to own or to obtain something or to behave in a particular manner. In other words, rights are normative rules dictating what is allowed and what is forbidden. A civilization is a world where everyone is born with basic rights that entitle them to a free, happy and virtuous life. Similarly, children’s rights are a part of general human rights explained in my own words above. The distinction is that children’s rights place an emphasis on the protection, care and growth of minors.

There are various rights to which children are entitled, such as the rights to health, education, recreation, living standards, etc. However, there are only four major precepts underpinning all children’s rights.

The first principle is non-discrimination. This rule establishes that each and every child, irrespective of gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, disability, parentage, sexual orientation or other statuses, deserves to have equal opportunities to develop to the full. The girl featured in the story above is a classic example of discrimination. She is denied access to formal education because of her gender.

The second principle is the best interests of the children. According to this fundamental rule, all actions taken, whether on a large scale or a small scale, must accommodate what is best for the development of children. In other words, children are a primary consideration when it comes to making decisions. For example, when parents are discussing divorce, they must prioritize the best circumstances for their children. The boy selling ice cream in the story does not enjoy fully this right because his father did not take into account his best interests when he decided to send his son to the streets, making him work for money instead of receiving education.

The third principle is the right to survival and development. It means that every child has the right to survive, to live, to enjoy basic services and to enjoy the equality of opportunity for full development. The infant thrown away in the trash bin in the story has its right seriously violated because it does not have access to the basic services that are vital to ensuring its survival, let alone its growth.

The last principle is the right of children to raise their voices. What children think, feel or say must be respected and considered when it comes to making any decisions involving children. You have been playing the role of the mother or the father of the boy whose feelings and opinions are disregarded. Therefore, it can be said that the boy does not enjoy this right to the full.

The world would witness dire consequences that have extensive damaging effects if there were no efforts to preserve, promote and improve children’s rights. First of all, the failure to protect children would raise the level of inequity around the world, which is already at an alarming rate. Unfairness would prevail in every corner of the globe as more children were abandoned, illiterate, abused and diseased. The big picture of the world would be a nightmare where darkness and tragedies rule, bringing down the living standard of a whole human civilization. Another sickening scenario would be the end of the humankind itself as children are the future. Without efforts to protect and promote children’s development, there would be no scientific breakthroughs that are critical to the advancement of humanity. The number of civilized and well-educated adults would plunge and the number of ill-mannered citizens would shoot up correspondingly. It means that the world would be plagued with criminals and troublesome people who did not have a good childhood.

There are feasible measures that can be taken to ameliorate the current practice of children’s rights as well as to prevent the aforementioned horrific situations. On the individual scale, the first thing that each and every person should do is to equip themselves with the important and updated knowledge of children’s rights. By doing this, people will deeply understand the significance of these rights and feel impelled to uphold these principles. The next step is to reappraise the manner in which we treat our children. This is an imperative task to carry out since even the minor mistakes in our behaviors can have tremendous effects on the physical and mental growth of children. Not only should we be the catalysts who are the first to change the way we treat children for the better but we should also encourage others to join us in the fight for our children. Besides, any cases of children’s rights breach should immediately be reported to authorized organizations which can handle the complications legally and effectively. This will help raise people’s awareness of the importance of children’s rights protection and deter further cruel treatment of children. Additionally, small donations or support of any kind for research centers about children’s rights are enough for any individuals to participate in the movement to create a better world for future generations.

As for organizations and governments, the responsibilities are undeniable. Governments of every nation in the world should feel obliged to spare a large portion of their budgets for the effective education about children’s basic entitlements, the ceaseless campaigns to enhance children’s rights and the successful execution of these rights. This issue should always take precedence over others. It is also the duty of law enforcement departments to clamp down on crimes against the minors. If condoned, the severity and the frequency of these crimes will certainly rise. Last but not least, huge amounts of funding money still need to be raised by governments and philanthropic organizations to help disadvantaged children who do not have access to basic necessities, healthcare, education, recreation or even smaller things like public libraries, toilets, playgrounds, etc.

In the end, the decisive role children play to the future of humanity and the paramount importance of upholding children’s rights are beyond any questions. Yet, as can be seen from the story above, no child seems to be able to enjoy fully their basic entitlements and in some cases, the level of inequity and pain is shocking. I’d like to end my writing by posing a seemingly simple question to those who have not taken children’s rights seriously: Do you think it is wise to turn a blind eye to crimes against the future generations which are spreading worldwide and will finally affect your own children or do you think it is better to join hands, solve the problems and create a much brighter world for your children, your grandchildren and many generations to come?

Tran Thi Hong Nhung – 1998
Foreign Trade University

I am a student from a small and impoverished village on the outskirts of Dong Hoi city. My school had no lab, no library no nameplate. My class became a haven for termites every day in rainy season. My school’s backyard sometimes was scattered with drug needles of drug-addicted students here and there. I was an object of bullying in my class during my senior year both in primary school and secondary school. Entering university in another city, I have to manage on my own because my parents cannot afford my living expenses. But, somehow, I grow up out of all these, feeling that I am a student filled with privileges.

In the senior year at my secondary school, luck smiled on me. I randomly heard about a teacher living 20 kilometers from my house who can help most of her students get into a school called Gifted high school in the central city. The Gifted school, as somebody told me, has lab, library and a big nameplate, no termites and bullies. Then I traveled to grasp the chance of studying with her to get into the school. And I succeeded, studying in a much more healthier environment.

Dreaming about studying abroad, I heard about a free college admission camp in Ho Chi Minh city; I traveled again. At the event, I was informed that there is an education center called Stella Education which can help me study abroad without a fee. I tried to gain Stella’s scholarship and receive free courses and consultancy. Now I do not know if I will be able to make my dream come true, yet at least it seems to be approaching me little by little, day by day.

Looking back at all these journeys, I feel grateful to life because there is always a myriad of generous opportunities somewhere or other. It depends on whether the person is able to see them and seize them or not. Therefore, I define myself as a student filled with privileges for being able to spot and optimize so many of these lucky chances. This enables me to take advantages to compensate for my disadvantages.

However, as every time an opportunity is found, I always have to travel. This means that opportunities are still abundant yet not always approachable and even sometimes exclusive to certain kinds of students. Not every student can succeed in every opportunity as I did. In my village, some of my friends say that they dream of becoming a pilot; some yearn to become an artist. Sadly, in a hometown with few learning resources and opportunities, they do not know which one to outreach for help about how to get started. In some cases, many students know the opportunity but cannot manage to get it because of geographical or financial difficulties. Eventually, the majority of opportunities, which are supposed to be given to the neediest ones, eventually come to the students in big cities who are the most well equipped with various means to take advantage of them. This experience of inequality sparks my early dream of becoming an entrepreneur in redressing this opportunity gap for students in my hometown.

My long-harboured ambition is to bring opportunities closer to them by setting up a job orientation center for school-aged students in my hometown. My center will be staffed by experts in every field working to give individualized consultancy and search for the most suitable career preparing opportunities for students. To financially support students in the process, we offer various scholarships for the most deserving ones. These scholarships also aim to sponsor for some of the most innovative projects of students. Besides, my center will give courses in basic skills such as foreign language, communication, project management, information searching skills to empower students to take the opportunities themselves. For students who have not identified what they really need, we design various extracurricular activities especially job orientation ones to help them find their interest and dream.

I know that to succeed in this ambition, I myself have to continue to be a strong, resilient and enterprising opportunity seeker. I will tirelessly continue to search for opportunities to ultimately bring them to the children in my hometown. I work hard with the earnest desire to make them come to the same realization as I did that no matter where they are from, the world is full of generous opportunities for their even wildest dream.

Lê Đình Tây – 1998
Foreign Trade University, Ho Chi Minh City

‘Children are just like buds on the twigs
Knowing to eat, sleep and learn is splendid’
– Ho Chi Minh –
Simple as the saying appears, it has still been staying in Vietnamese people’s minds by showing special care and appreciation towards descendants. With the natural characteristics mentioned in the saying, children truly deserve a life free of fears and dangers irrespective of their origins, races or genders. However, in many regions of the world, there are still unhappy children encountering serious threats or being restricted in terms of legitimate rights. For the world’s brighter future, I strongly place a specific emphasis on the empowerment of children’s voices in all my seriousness.
It is likely that people will comprehend the subject without difficulty; nevertheless, an overview of this worth-considering issue is necessary. For the most part, children’s voices are nothing but pretty sounds full of emotion and aspiration stemming from the beautiful hearts. Empowering their voices is also synonymous with making their words become particularly influential in society. To this end, it is of the essence to highlight the responsibility of adults to safeguard children against discrimination, violence, mistreatment and the like alongside the creation of increasingly healthy and safe surroundings.
Given the harsh realities of life, it is conceivable that there remain children being heavily restricted of rights or seriously threatened in many areas of the world. To exemplify, many offspring in Asian families are constrained to follow in others’ footsteps, having no option for their own lives. Another worrying case is that there have been innocent infants being mistreated by their childminders or victimized by aggressive peers. Perhaps it still pulls at our heartstrings to recollect the image of Omran Daqneesh, a young Syrian child whose life represents thousands of children being severely threatened in the Syria war. More hurtfully, some teenagers in developing countries are subject to either sexual abuse or labor exploitation. It may be heartbreaking to recall unpleasant situations in which children fall victim to inhumane acts, but it is also a sign of adults’ insufficient care.
No matter how beautiful they have consistenly appear, children’s voices carry little weight with those excrutiating pains. The world has been stunning with its fragrant flowers named ‘chidlren’; for this reason, none of those bright but delicate flowers are to be trampled just by the indifference of adults. Their voices must be well heard by the whole society and their legitimate rights should be strongly exercised, including the right to live a life without discrimination, fears and dangers, etc. and to become influential in society with their words.
‘Our children are our only hope for the future, but we are their only hope for their present and their future’, said Zig Ziglar, an American salesman, motivational speaker and author. From his quote, it can be emphasized that there is a need to create an environment in which all children are entitled to equal treatments. It is perhaps an environment without conflicts at first, and in which children feel free to articulate their innermost feelings and thoughts. By unburdening themselves to others, they are strongly convinced that there is still a glimmer of hope and room for improvement. Also, it must be a place where children can live a life in accordance with their ages, just like their being compared with ‘buds on the twigs’ by Ho Chi Minh.
In parallel to the creation of such an environment, it is adults’ responsibility to nurture their offspring well. Families play a key role in increasing children’s awareness about their basic rights, and equipping them with considerable measures against external threats. Furthermore, offspring should be allowed to decide on their own future path, but with consultancy rather than be restricted. It will also do wonders if children are encouraged to think independently and critically from an early age. With regard to the government, there is a need for their strengthening of the legal system, which may act as a deterrent to the infringement on children’s rights. All those approaches will lay the foundations for children’s empowerment of their voices.
By ways of conclusion, children’s legitimate rights are recognized and defended by not only the government but also people in general. What needs to take into consideration is the way children are instructed to enforce these rights in order to safeguard themselves to the utmost. Adults should take great care of their children and let their voices strongly heard. This is not only for the betterment of their future but also for the sustainability of our society.