Carys, from FLARE, reflects on some of the challenges that children and young people are continuing to face as we mark this World Children Day.
It's weird to think how much can change in a year. You grow older, of course, but your circumstances also change- you may get your first job, make new friends, start a new hobby. This year changed things like the majority of the world had never anticipated, in a way that we hadn't imagined. The impact of the COVID-19 has been far-reaching and continues to affect all ages and all walks of life. Children and young people across the world are struggling under the impact that the coronavirus has had on every aspect of their lives and that is why World Children’s Day this year is more vital than any other before. It gives us a platform to celebrate the voices of children and young people and demand rights for so many children around the world who don’t have the same opportunities as we do in this country, or even those children in this country who maybe don’t have the same advantages that many of us have had. We often feel unheard by major players on topics such as child poverty, being a carer, being in care, the problems with our education system, or the growing impact of social media on wellbeing. We cannot let the voices of young people be silenced- we have the power to change the world for the better and for the next generation of young people. Yet, it's so easy to get caught up in the picture of our own childhoods and thus assume that everyone has had the same experiences we’ve had but the reality is that we need to face this continually changing world head-on. Our society is in a state of flux and we must embrace this or get left behind.
Young people in the UK are filled with nerves as to what their future will hold, a natural feeling in most years. This year, however, the feeling of anxiety has been heightened by an uncertainty around our grades and exams. Speaking as someone who’s taking A Levels in 2021, the uncertainty is the worst part. Every clarification we're given seems to be followed by a rising rate of infection or another nation cancelling their exams. Not only does this add to the sense of being powerless, it also fills a lot of us with dread as we're competing for the same university places as other students, whose exams have been cancelled. Deferred entry to universities means that there are less spaces for this year at the top universities in the highly competitive courses. Reassurance and clarity are desperately needed so that we know no student will be disadvantaged. Our voices need to be amplified. We're not simply grades on paper or statistics at the end of the academic year. We have so much hope for a new and better world, one where we can work in partnership to help build and mend our economy and one where we're all treated with the respect we deserve.
This second lockdown brings forth another problem. The media too often perpetuates this idea of young people being to blame for the rise. I've seen headlines littered with pictures of raves, crowded beaches and jam-packed schools. People have been told to work from home, if possible, yet we still have to go to school/college/university. Therefore, if/when the infection rate rises, we will go back to being the ones blamed for transmitting it recklessly, when it was the government who told us that we either had to go back or be fined. Scape-goating is not the answer. We are not to blame. We need to look around ourselves, get out of our metaphorical "bubble", and understand. A lot of young people are really struggling. Take the time to make sure that they’re really ok, just like you would do with other relatives. Talking things through with them in a non-judgemental space can make all the difference. We need to treat ourselves with kindness yet also treat other people with kindness- only this way will we really get through this together.