Infants and Children absent from Development
There has been an increase in reports of children not attending school which has been picked up by our WCCC counselors during their home visits. Most of these cases have been referred to the WCCC by the community health centers. Most of these children are aged between 5 years of age and 12 years of age. When asked why they are not attending school, the most recurring response is due to lack of finances to support the child(ren) to attend school. This involves school uniforms, lunches, school materials and where applicable school fees. Moreover, many babies and infants suffer from malnutrition and do not have access to the right nutrients to keep their bodies developing at a healthy pace due to an increase on the number of single mom, separated families and teenage pregnancies.
“We need to look at how we can help these families, not just the WCCC but also the government, churches, the private sector…we all need to look at solutions because the problem is getting bigger and bigger…’ says WCCC Counselor, Leti Siliva.
Part of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is to ensure that all children have access to universal primary school education. “We need to be reporting correctly against these goals and to measure exactly how we have or have not been achieving this goal, it’s one thing to say that we have plenty of schools throughout the country but it’s another issue altogether when it comes to talking about quality of education and access to education…..which families can afford to send their children and which families cannot afford, how do we effectively address this?”, asks WCCC Director ‘Ofa Guttenbeil-Likiliki.
Part of the MDGs is also to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger and to reduce child mortality rates. “Unfortunately, I have seen many cases of young babies and infants suffering from malnutrition, for example one 2 year was weighing in at only 6 kg…..after working closely with the community nurses we were able to assist the infant to regain a healthy weight progress….we can’t finger point and blame parents or those looking after the babies, we need to look at real solutions because the matter of the fact is simply that most of these families just cannot afford to feed their children” says Siliva.
The Tonga Government signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1995. “This is a clear commitment made by our Government to ensure that we are committed to looking after the welfare and dignity of our children, we need to step up the pace and start talking about how we should be monitoring the development of our children, otherwise, we will fall short of reporting truthfully against the MDGs”, says Guttenbeil-Likiliki.