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Unusual Children’s Day celebration in Lithuania: children swarm legislative chambers

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Seimas, the Lithuanian parliament

Linas Jegelevičius for the BNN

Ahead of the International Children’s Day on June 1 an unusual conference was held in Lithuanian Parliament, Seimas – all the speakers were children and the adults stayed in the stands dumbstruck by the youngsters’ insightful observations on politics and the take on the politicians.

«Indeed, children reflect the adults’ world very authentically, yet I’ve never noticed that children would employ the theme of politics into their games, for example,» Biruta Mažrimienė, former director of kindergarten in the town of Palanga, told BNN.

Behind the Seimas event stood Mykolas Romeris University’s Institute of Educology and Social Work, as well as Seimas’ Human Rights Committee, JSC «Šviesa» and «Gelbėkite vaikus» («Salvage children»), an NGO.

The event’s spearheads could not bargain for me – having swarmed the legislative chambers, the children stunned all with candour, sincerity and insightfulness. Those who could not make it to Vilnius had sent their strongly worded messages by regular mail or through emails. Some of the littlest, who still struggle to read, sent their drawings – 260 of them were received by the conference staff.

Given the opportunity to address the country’s lawmakers directly, the youngsters- some of them were as young as four – chided, rebuked and even poked fun at the MPs and, importantly, urged them to tackle children-related issues seriously.

Many of the young participants, however, needed a special elevation to reach the brims of the parliamentary stand and the microphone.

«As you could be our uncles and aunts, although in legislature, which, by the way, seems so remote to many ordinary people, children, too, I’d like you to more often pay visit to the unhappy children and help them. Are you asking how? Bring them some gifts, take them for a ride, bake them a pie at your home, make some tea, sit down with them and talk. Maybe, at the end of the day, you will feel like becoming their foster parents. I ask you this very much,» Eva, a 10-year-old girl from Žemaičių Naumiestis in the Šilutė district, pleaded with the awe-stricken mum parliamentarians in the stands.

And then there was the impassionate speech by Benas, a seven-year-old from the Lithuanian seaport of Klaipeda.  In an attempt to muster some help for peers who do not have both  or a single parent, or because the begetters toil abroad to support the family, the boy drew a comparison between death and Harry Potter, the young magician from the best-selling-author Joanne Rowling’s wizardry books.

«Death is such a thing that cannot be replaced or changed and the deceased cannot be brought back through magic. If there appeared a man like Harry Potter, maybe he would be able to do it. If I had his powers, I would first dole out money for children who do not have their own home and whose parents are jobless. Many of the parents, therefore, go to work to foreign lands, like Norway, England and Ireland. I’d also help senile people who struggle to walk, who are short of cash for delicious food and who cannot afford clothing and medicine,» Benas’ speech made some adults to wipe away tears.

In the group of a little elder children, Deimantė, a 12-year-old adolescent, from Alytus in southern Lithuanian, addressed all on a very acid issue – the lack of communication between parents and their offspring.

«Dear adults! What do you do in order to halt this highly contagious virtual «virus”? How many efforts do you invest into communicating with your children? By the way, talking to your own children does no cost anything…Do devout just a couple of minutes for us, your children, and you will see soon, that the minutes turn into hours and so on…Try to alter the virtual world of the mobile phone screen, the TV set and radio into the real one…It is worth trying, isn’t it?» the teenage girl asked rhetorically.

And there were dozen speeches of the kind – ones very passionate and heart-wrenching, all of which kept the adults in the stands mum and often teary.

«Although children issues are broadly discussed in the public and different settings, children themselves are not invited to the events usually. And if children voice their opinion, no one effectively turns ear to what they say. We wanted a different discussion – with adolescents talking and their begetters and educators listening to them,» Brigita Kairienė, associate professor at Mykolas Romeris University’s Institute of Educology and Social Work said.

The children also spoke about domestic violence, unemployment, complicated relations with parents and teachers, generational misunderstandings, social seclusion, uncertainty and even the never-ending education reforms.

The resolve of the Lithuanian government to prolong school year has garnered the children’s particularly big attention.

«Although I like being at school, however, I say a strict NO to the prolongation. The smart people of authority have commenced reforming the system not from the right end…Dear legislators, do start it from changing the current educational programme. Do pay attention to what, we pupils and teachers have to say about your plans. For a single reason – we’re dealing with it daily,» Ugnė, a 17-year-old from Vievis, emphasised.

«Indeed, some of the children’s insights have shaken up many and made to rethink many things. The adolescent thoughts or the childish drawings reflect the relations between them and the adults, as well as their feelings, understanding of the world, problems and emotions,» Kairienė noted.

Some of the zingers under the article on the conference showed the impact of the event.

«Indeed, the children’s reasoning has shaken me, just because I’m hearing downright the same from all the Lithuanian journalists, retirees and public commentators. It seems that there are no adults in Lithuania. The most horrible thing to me is that not the parents accuse their children of being immersed in virtual life, but the children blame their parents for that. That they miss alive communication with the parents. Very sad, indeed,»  Ilona said in her the comment.

With over 20 years as a preschool teacher and director of kindergarten in Palanga, Biruta Mažrimienė, is not surprised at all by children’s candour and sincerity.

«What sets children apart the adults is that children reflect the surroundings directly, their language is devoid of diplomacy and bypassing certain subjects. Children, even preschoolers, often comment on politicians and their malfeasances, yet children do not like enact them in their games or creation,»the educator emphasised to BNN.

Her twin preschool grandsons, she says, know very well the president of Lithuania and each have their opinion about her.

«The other politicians are well behind in the popularity, at least for the two,» Mažrimienė smiled.«Both understand that politicians are very influential and a lot is hinged on them».

Ref: 020/


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