PNG CALL TO RESPECT RIGHTS OF CHILDREN

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By Theresa Ame

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (February 6, 2001 - The National/ PINA Nius Online)---Papua New Guinea's Welfare and Social Services Ministry has appealed for understanding on two major issues affecting children:

Minister William Ebenosi and Secretary Joseph Sukwianomb made the appeal in light of children being turned away from schools for non-payment of fees, and the attempt by social workers to find foster parents for a baby abandoned at birth at the Port Moresby General Hospital last December.

Mr. Ebenosi called on the Education Minister, Dr. John Waiko, to intervene and direct the Education Secretary to instruct all educational institutions to accept all students into schools.

He said he had received numerous calls from parents whose children had been sent away from school last week for non-payment of fees.

"Parents have called up asking me to step in and assist them. Therefore, I am calling on the Education Minister to help the parents whose children have been sent away," he said.

He said the high cost of living and the hard economic times are factors behind the plight of these parents whose children's fees are yet to be paid.

"Accept the children into the schools and give ample time, possibly six months, for their parents to find the amount required for fees.

"As minister responsible for children, I am making this call to the Department of Education to allow children into classrooms and not deny their rights.

"Education for children is their right and not a privilege and we in no way should deny them this right," Mr. Ebenosi said.

On matters relating to adoption and child welfare, Welfare and Social Services Secretary Joseph Sukwianomb said these must be treated with respect and should be taken seriously by everyone.

Mr. Sukwianomb said this following media reports on the status of an abandoned child. Baby Rose is currently under the care of the welfare division of the department but is being looked after by nurses in the maternity wing of the Port Moresby General Hospital.

He said the exposure of the child to public scrutiny and debate was of great concern to the department, regardless of the circumstances in which she was abandoned.

He said no one should publicly portray a child who is unable to defend himself/herself. This was against the law and carried a penalty of six months in prison or a fine of K 400 (US$ 130).

Said Mr. Sukwianomb: "Social workers have a role to play and they must follow certain procedures and report all children's cases to the welfare division, and everything else about the child must be done without disclosing its identity."

He said that in any case, the identity of the child and his/her parents must be protected and policies and guidelines on adoption must be strictly followed.

Mr. Sukwianomb warned that the welfare of children, abandoned or otherwise, must be protected and no child should be exposed as a public commodity. In future, the department would take severe action in such matters, he added.

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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