Many youngsters attending summer school were unaware that any form of violence against children was illegal, highlighting the urgent need to promote the concept of positive parenting, former President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca said.
This emerged during The Secret Garden activities carried out by The Children’s Hub Team within the Malta Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society, among 550 children attending SkolaSajf.
The culmination of these sessions, which focused on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, will be reached tomorrow Monday, September 2, during SkolaSajf’s special parliamentary session for children at the House of Representatives, in Valletta.
One of the recurring themes that generated a lot of discussion was violence on children and stemmed from SDG 16, which focuses on promoting peaceful and inclusive societies, access to justice for all and inclusive institutions at all levels.
The hub’s team leader Angela Caruana said many were astonished to learn that hitting children was illegal in Malta, and innocently asked: “Not even my parents can hit me?”
During one of the discussions, a 10-year-old boy challenged his peers by saying that he believed hitting children was important, but none of them agreed.
Ms Caruana said: “During this time, I was sitting among the children and a girl came up to me and whispered: ‘You know why he says that, because he was never hit. Hitting children hurts.’ She was convinced her mum did not love her as she hit her a lot and hurt her a lot.
“During another session, a young kid shared his experience that hitting at his house was normal; he didn’t like it but said he was naughty.”
Ms Coleiro Preca, who is also President of Eurochild — a children’s rights advocacy network with 176 members in 34 countries — said these statements clearly showed that corporal punishment was still ingrained in the island’s culture.
“In the past, discipling children by hitting them was an acceptable practice — those times are past and this has to stop. We have to summon everyone’s commitment to achieve zero violence towards our children and promote positive parenting among those who care for our children.
“Research shows that children who have experienced any form of violence suffer psychologically and carry this with them throughout their adult life. We need long-term policies in place that engage every strata of society to change this behaviour in the long-term.”
The activities carried out in the school aimed to empower children to understand that each and every individual can participate to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change while ensuring no one was left behind.
The environment was another theme that kept cropping up as well as the importance of working together and not getting distracted from achieving national goals because of piques and greed for power.
“The children’s message was loud and clear: if they were capable of doing their bit towards achieving goals for society’s wellbeing, then as adults we do have to do our part and take wise decisions for their future,” Ms Coleiro Preca said.