Children our Collective Ethical Obligation

I was witness to a 'community food bank', a very creative initiative that Arun, a child from one of our service villages initiated a few years ago. The trigger, 'a testimony of hunger', that formed part of the ethics education workshop he had participated in. He was honoured at the annual Coimbatore Peace Festival for his concrete work in serving society and building peace. As his name was read out along with his background, initiative and achievements ...the applause from the assembled children and young people got almost deafening. I sat there moved by this spontaneous 'sangamam', a coming together of children, one that transcended words and differences. This sangamam was based on what they valued and appreciated. The food bank continues even today to draw great energy and contribution from children in serving families living with HIV in my city Coimbatore.

Reflecting on such particular experiences leads me to the larger question,
• Are we giving our children within and beyond education, both formal and non-formal, time and space enough to discover their humane sides?
• Is the current educational framework equipped to bring life oriented knowledge, real life situations, critical thinking and response models that will allow them to adapt ethical practices in this ever shrinking global village?

The answer clearly is NO!

It is this concern for the wellbeing of children and the potential they have in being peace-seeking citizens that led Arigatou International to collaborate with a number of organizations including Religious Communities, UNICEF and UNESCO, and co-produce the 'Learning to Live Together resource'. This offering of interfaith and intercultural learning, I hope will help communities, scholars and practitioners to serve children better. I believe this will help fill the gap in complementing the 3 R's (reading, writing and arithmetic) with values and frameworks for life as a whole.

Just as the global and local realities are part of children's lives today so is the opportunity for working with children, in harnessing their ideas for building a future that is peaceful. Constructive educational interface that responds to the physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs of children is critical. It will add value and make our work for children more holistic. Children and their families in developed and developing countries alike are already experiencing unprecedented mental stress, social distance and isolation when education is presented as an incomplete fragment. This cannot go on, we can and must act now!

To quote the resource itself, 'Children are not born into an ideal world – complex realities, conflicting values, opposing claims to truth and confusing alternatives do compete for their loyalty'. The global statistics demonstrate the inequities that children worldwide are facing, the impact of which leads to further deprivation, injustice and violence. This is the reality! However, this generation of children will also have more connectivity, wealth, technology and global resources at their disposition as they move into adulthood. By investing in their progress, by expanding their hearts and minds with values and concrete experiences, we give ourselves the possibility of a double dividend. A dividend that first ensures children's right to survival, protection, participation and development, and secondly that which feeds a generation of transformational leaders whose aspiration for a peaceful society is rooted in a firsthand experience in learning to live together.

As, the Learning to Live Together resource acknowledges:
We owe it to them, and the world, that we raise and educate children with a sense of accountability, discernment, humility, and above all the hopeful understanding that they can indeed contribute to transforming this world into a more peaceful one.

Mahatma Gandhi's words continue to be a reminder in this direction,

What we do today determines our collective future!