Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Children & the City

As usual, the enormously long winter break of the children is upon us. Some of the parents residing in urban clusters have sent the children off to their native villages to enjoy the vacations. But not everyone enjoys the luxury of having a home in the basti as well, and those who are not as lucky see their children cramped for space. Rented quarters and concrete jumbles make enormous demands on the creativity of children [and their parents] to find place to play.
Most of such children can be seen either playing marbles in the corners or playing cricket on the streets – at least on stretches such as ICAR-Lingding, Byepass-Ranka, Ranipool-Adampool roads where traffic is low and vehicles in less of a dangerously tearing hurry [thanks to the poor condition of the roads]. Kids who don’t have too many children of their own age in the neighbourhood can be seen either playing alone [as seen the picture] or spending all their waking hours watching cartoons on TV. The travails of living in the city never end!
In sharing this, I am seeking to highlight the problem of kids living in urban areas and their desperate need for adequate infrastructure to be developed where they can play and be safely outdoors. Gangtok, where I live, is in embarrassingly short supply of spaces for children. The very infrastructure developed here is clearly not enough to serve everyone’s purpose. Paljor Stadum for instance is convenient only to kids from in and around the main town area and even this ground remains engaged for events and tournaments. Khelgaon at Resithang is too inaccessible because of its distance. The Saramsa Garden, like every other children’s park, has be hijacked by adults which children prohibited from any boisterous games which could spoil the manicured garden and flower beds. The Tourist Village at Ranka is too expensive for frequent visits.
We are guilty of having cramped our children out.
So much for the complaining… What needs to be accepted is that a little amount of planning and some coordination can ensure that not only do our children collect some good memories of their holidays, but also keep physically and mentally active through the winter months. Every area has at least one social organization, club or an active NGO. The locality also has atleast one school with a reasonably good campus which is lying mostly vacant and underutilized during holidays. They can surely spare one room for children through the vacations and open their campus for some supervised playtime for neigbourhood kids. If neighbourhood organisations organized training camps for games and sports like chess, table tennis, or even badminton and soccer or whatever skill they have among members, all these children can utilize their vacations more usefully.
Sikkim to its credit as a good track-record finding sponsors for social causes and philanthropic exercises and funds for such engagements can be secured easily if someone made the effort. A reasonable amount of registration fee could also be taken from participants so that recurring expenses can be met.
In the long run, these organizations should think of setting up libraries in their localities as well. Another aspect to engage these kids properly will be in utilizing the laptops distributed by the Government the senior students. In any given colony [even building], at least five such laptops are available. Those who had received these laptops are preparing for their Class XII board exams and their laptops are free most of the times. The kids can be taught computer basics and use of internet [extending WiFi net connection should be considered].
The policy-makers should also plan urban spaces better and remember that not just cars, but even children need parks.
[The writer is Managing Editor, Sikkim NOW!]

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