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COVID-19: NHRC issues advisory for children affected by pandemic

‘States, UTs must ensure children do not drop out of school due to pandemic circumstances, enter into child labour, child marriage, trafficking; Teachers must get training for effective conduct of online classes, mental health professionals must counsel children/adolescents’

Srinagar, June 05, 2021: National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued an advisory to all States and Union Territories across India stressing that no children should not drop out of school due to the circumstances created by the pandemic and enter into child labour, child marriage or trafficking.

“Take all necessary steps to ensure that children do not drop out of school due to the circumstances imposed by the pandemic forcing them to enter into child labour, child marriage, or fall prey to mishaps such as trafficking,” the NHRC advisory, a copy of which lies with the news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO), to States, UTs, reads, adding that “Collect data on drop-out children and create a mechanism to bring such children back to the education system.”

The advisory further states that training should be imparted to teachers in a time bound manner so that they may effectively conduct online classes and carry out everyday school functioning through the digital mode until such time physical presence in schools is possible.

“States, UTs must take appropriate measures for online safety of children in line with (lie PRAGYATA Guidelines for Digital Education issued by the Ministry of Human Resource Development,” the advisory reads.

It states that the NHRC is mandated by the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 to promote and protect the human rights of all people in the country. “In recognizing the long term and continuing impacts of the first and second wave of the pandemic COVID-19 pandemic on the children, as well as the need for greater preparedness and action by all stakeholders for their protection in the future, especially as experts have warned about the impending third wave of the pandemic, the Commission is issuing the ‘Advisory for Protection of the Rights of Children in the context of COVID-19,” the advisory states.

The NHRC further reads that children who are isolated in COVID-care facilities and hospitals will require psycho-social support as they spend weeks away from their family in a different environment. “Therefore, ensure psycho-social support to children based on their age and gender, including online or telephonic interaction with parent(s) at specific intervals,” it reads. “Further, ensure special care and treatment of the children with disabilities.”

The advisory reads that there should be universalization of digital facilities to ensure access to online education for all children.

“States/UTs must ensure accessibility of online classes for all children, especially those from lower socio-economic sections of the society, through provision of suitable devices and resources including internet connectivity,” the advisory reads, adding that “An adequate budget should be allocated specifically for this purpose.”

For the children with disabilities, the advisory reads that UTs/States must ensure that online classes are inclusive for and accessible to the children with disabilities. “As schools have been shut down and children are unable to socialize with their peers, this creates a requirement for psycho-social support for the children during this period. Therefore, train and create a cadre of mental health professionals/ counsellors for children & adolescents.”—(KNO)

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