Topical Issue

The status of children

Ochirbat ALTANSÜKH, Chairman, Family, Child, Youth Development Authority of Mongolia

33 percent of Mongolia’s population are children aged 0-18 and one third of the population are young people aged between 18 and 35. Today, the Mongolian Government for the first time has put at the national policy level issues related to family and young people, apart from focusing on child protection and development, which was the sole responsibility of the predecessor organization – National Children’s Authority. The new agency – Family, Child and Youth Development Authority is today working in a new set up as these three form the three supporting pillars of the society.
Child rights, development and protection issues remain in the core of the Government’s policy and its significance is ever more important today when the country celebrates Mother’s and Children’s Day on 1 June.

O. Altansükh (left) with an academically outstanding boy

Child rights and protection
In the last twenty-seven years child protection issue had been a priority concern. From the legal point of view, the country has a satisfactory framework providing for services and allocation for protecting those children who are at risk and are being abused. However, the country had not yet fully defined what children development should be like. Less attention was given to this matter and budgetary allocations were also not too satisfactory.
At the local rural areas the percentage of children requiring protection account for 5 percent of all Mongolian children, while their number in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar is about 10 percent. In other words, close to every 100 children for every 1,000 children, owing to the conditions of their living standards, need special care and protection. But the development issue of the remaining 900 from every 1000 children, or 90 percent of children have been neglected. This is not to say that nothing has been done, but what’s been done is not satisfactory and the actions taken were temporary in nature, and they mostly came from the private sector or non-governmental agencies. For instance, the question of standard and license for day-care centers is still pending solution. A second class boy, for example, goes to school in the morning and returns home at 12 noon and then goes to a day-care center after lunch, and once again is made to study. This boy spends 90 percent of his time, during which he should be developing, to studying. This will make a child ‘sick’ of learning. Therefore, day-care centers should be a place where a child is given time to grow, develop, laugh and enjoy, and to date we do not have a set standard for this for the day-care centers.
One special feature of our society today is that our life has become dependent on any one kind of screen, be it TV screen or a mobile phone screen. Real-time communication has become extremely limited. We are still unable to give answer to many such questions as “Are parents able to monitor violence, discrimination and other social problems to which children are exposed to on-line?”, “How do we regulate this issue?” etc. The entire world is lost in this respect.

Child education and upbringing
Teaching and upbringing activities must go hand-in-hand.
Unfortunately, in the past period we had neglected the question of upbringing. There is not a single institution in the country that has allocated budget for upbringing issue. Since upbringing and moral issues have been neglected, family matters have become complicated.
The Family, Child and Youth Development Authority is working to overhaul the social and upbringing activities being carried out at schools. Together with UNICEF we are planing to implement a Child-Friendly School program at one school where children attend classes in three shifts, and another school in the city center and in a remote rural area. Our society today needs good lessons. How do we educate children who are upright and honest? In this respect parents, children themselves, teachers and social workers need to work hand-in-hand in close collaboration.
If we want our children to live in Mongolia, be a part in the nation’s development then we must make sure that they are real Mongolians. What are we to do with people who speak fluent English but cannot speak in the native tongue? … There are countries that have a rough policy in this regard. Take for example Japan, where school children are not taught any foreign language until they reach the age of 12. A Mongolian child who has returned home from Japan after completing his fourth grade there is unable to adapt to school. Because such children have been taught how to say thank you, they know how to express themselves before others and have been taught to take care of their friends. But it’s not the same in our country. This means that like skills based on academic learning method should be introduced in the country and we need to work towards this end.
As an individual I feel strongly that our Government must have a well thought-out plan for the education sector given that we are a nation of 3 million only and sandwiched between two big countries. We also need to consider how relevant it is for our young people, who have graduated from their high school to go overseas for studies. After graduation from university I worked for a year and then traveled overseas to pursue my post-graduate studies. Young Mongolians who are joining overseas colleges and universities after completing their first year are different in the sense they know in which area they should major in as they know the profession they are looking for is in demand in the country, and they are better in their academic performance too. This sounds quite simple but is a very important factor to consider.

55 Mongolian children took a successful part in a UCMAS International Abacus and Mental Arithmetic Competition held in Dubai, Arab Emirates in November 2016. These children, aged 6-14, came from schools in different parts of the country.

It is high time we focused on upbringing and development in unison. A young person whose world outlook and thoughts have been formed know what bad habits can lead to, who they should befriend etc. Starting from this year a crime prevention council led by the Minister of Justice is planning to re-introduce at schools the so-called Juvenile Police which we used to have in the past with the realization that prevention is ore important than punishment. We know from past experience that supporting such teams with proper methodology with the help of child participatory organizations can be effective.

Adolescent and health
Another important issue that we need to consider is the question of reproduction. There is a growing incidence of unwanted pregnancy and abortion among adolescents simply because we have failed in providing them with a systematic understanding of reproductive health. Since adolescents lack information they tend to seek medical services through hearsay has been established by research, which has also shown that sexually transmitted illnesses, unwanted pregnancy and abortion among adolescents is becoming a matter of serious concern. All this boils down to the question of morality.

Child and family
Family relations and environment find direct reflection in children. A lot depends on the parents. We can accomplish a lot if we are able to properly fuse the triangle of contemporary friends, parents and schools. This is because we have been wanting in a proper policy of fostering families. Owing to distinctive traditional features inland migration is becoming a leading cause of families to break up. Menfolks in the rural areas stay back to tend and care for their livestock, while the women, even after they return from the city after obtaining education, find the cultural difference so shocking that they would not continue with their joint family life. D. Mönkhöö, the head of the Gal Golomt National Movement and our agency’s advisor has been adducing many facts and giving examples of how the number of strong families in the rural areas has been dwindling. Young people increasingly want to travel overseas to work and study. This also, not many admit, is becoming a strong factor in families separating.
What we need is a policy that fosters and supports a strong family, which will also have a most beneficial effect on the upbringing, education and development of children.

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