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2014年5月 6日 (火)

こどもの日 無限の可能性を大切に育もう

The Yomiuri Shimbun 7:09 pm, May 05, 2014
Children need help to ensure their unlimited potential blossoms
こどもの日 無限の可能性を大切に育もう

“That one step, leads to the future, the path to dreams.”
 「そのいっぽ みらいにつづく ゆめのみち」――。

This slogan for child welfare week, which starts on Children’s Day on Monday, was composed by a 7-year-old girl in Chiba Prefecture. The slogan evokes a sense of the unlimited potential of children. We should nurture it with care.

An increasing number of primary schools across the nation have been holding an event, dubbed “one-half coming-of-age ceremony,” to commemorate children reaching the age of 10, half the 20 years they must reach to come of age. The event, for fourth graders, became popular after a Japanese textbook introduced it about 10 years ago.

The event generally features children talking about their future dreams and expressing gratitude to their families in front of an audience, as well as parents handing their children letters that look back on their earlier years.

A survey of parents revealed that they thought the ceremony provided children an opportunity to move toward becoming independent. Some respondents said their children became more aware of their responsibilities about their own lives and began to do homework and help out at home on their own initiative, while others said their children began to meekly listen to what their parents had to say when they were scolded, although they showed their resentment in the past.
The event significantly helps children’s growth as it provides an opportunity for them to nurture their dreams and set their minds on goals for the future.

Financial problems

However, it is true that not all families can provide the stability needed for children to channel their energy into studying without anxiety.

The percentage of children in financially strapped families, whose incomes are less than half of the median income of Japanese households, is on the rise. In 2009, this percentage registered a record 15.7 percent, meaning that about one out of six children came from such families.

There is a conspicuous number of cases in which children have been unable to attend high school or university for financial reasons, preventing them from landing stable jobs. This “chain of poverty” from parents to children must be broken.

A law dealing with child poverty, which was put into force in January, obliges the state to take countermeasures to help such children. As early as July the government is expected to decide on a set of specific measures, which we hope will contain effective steps.

The Saitama prefectural government has entrusted a private organization to provide free after-school classes to middle school students whose families receive livelihood protection benefits, a measure that has proved effective in raising the ratio of children advancing to high school. Under the program, former teachers and others instruct students or regularly visit their homes. The carefully thought-out support is a model for other municipal governments trying to come up with appropriate measures.

Families struggling with poverty and other livelihood problems tend to be isolated, which makes it difficult for public support to reach them. Establishing a regime to keep an eye on parents and children from both the pregnancy and child-rearing stages and then to provide crucial help is an important challenge. The task also is essential to prevent child abuse.

It is the responsibility of adults to build a society in which all children feel welcome after they enter this world and that they are treated with love.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 5, 2014)


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