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The National Action Plan for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights 2011 – 2016 as well as the full series of  Sri Lanka Rights Watch are available at the Peace & Reconciliation Website.

Amongst the recommendations developed at the consultations on Human Rights arranged by the Consortium for Humanitarian Agencies that were held in my office a few weeks back, perhaps the simplest to implement swiftly is that about the lack of well-trained counselors for children. It is true that the Education Ministry has set up a system of counselors in schools, but training has been minimal in some cases, and there are no clear guidelines as to how they should be used.

Counselors need to work in collaboration with the teachers who are most likely to be a child’s first point of reference

Counselors need to work in collaboration with the teachers who are most likely to be a child’s first point of reference, while they should also have access to social workers from the relevant Ministries as well as well as medical personnel in the field. In addition, it would be useful if the education system worked more coherently in developing peer group support mechanisms, in particular through the entrenchment of extra-curricular activities that ensured socialization through cooperation. In this regard I had  approached the Girl Guide Association about doing more to support youngsters in the North, and they have responded positively. I have not as yet had a response from the Boy Scouts, which was not surprising since they have generally been socially less aware than the Guides, but perhaps cadeting would be better anyway for our youngsters.

Such basic attention is one necessity, given the alienation that can develop so easily in students subject to the pressures of our current schooling system. However, in addition to setting up a system of possible referral for problem cases, we also need to pay greater attention to professional counseling for these. In particular we need to ensure high quality psychosocial care for children involved in court cases. Mechanisms must also be developed to empower children to speak in such cases, and to ensure that what they say is given due notice. Read the rest of this entry »

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Rajiva Wijesinha

May 2012
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