Pandemic’s impact on children highlighted

Hakim Hayat

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted children’s mental health in Brunei due to lack of social interaction and activities, as well as the challenges of online learning, as shared by Brunei’s children delegates at the 6th ASEAN Children’s Forum, organised by Cambodia recently.

This was highlighted by Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Haji Aminuddin Ihsan bin Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Haji Abidin in his message to mark Universal Children’s Day.

He said that the 6th ASEAN Children’s Forum, which focussed on the impact of COVID-19, was an opportunity to share issues of concern from national perspectives.

Despite the negative impact, the minister added, there was a silver lining stemming from the pandemic, such as the ability to adapt to new normals, increased use of technology, cleaner environment, and increased health awareness.

The forum urged parents and families to remain vigilant on the mental health of children, spend quality time with them and avoid undue pressure on their learning and examinations during these uncertain times, the minister said. The minister also assured that the government will continue to actively ensure the safety of children and their rights through a whole-of-nation approach and strengthen the ecosystem for protection of children and young people under 18 in the country.

The government has implemented initiatives including the national helplines such as Talian ANAK 121 under the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, and Talian 145 (Hopeline) under the Ministry of Health. The Ministry of Education (MoE) also provides a helpline to support children’s well-being and welfare.

Brunei is also developing a National Framework on Child Protection (FCP) and has established a ‘Register of Children and Young Person in Need of Protection’, to facilitate inter-agency monitoring of children or young people who need immediate protection.

A new Welfare Home Shelter under the Welfare Home Complex, Community Development Department is also under construction, with a ‘home concept’ aimed at providing a safe and comfortable home for vulnerable and high risk children.

The Technology Devices charity drive campaign by the MoE meanwhile, provided access to Internet connection and educational television to ensure underprivileged students are not left behind during online learning, he added.

Nutritional and school items assistance are also provided, through government, non- governmental organisations and corporate companies.

“Alhamdulillah, this shows a strong sense of responsibility at the whole-of-nation level towards the well-being of children and young people, especially during these challenging times as we adapt and adopt new normals. Let us all celebrate and ensure the continued well-being of our children in this country.

“They are an invaluable asset, and the successor of our future generation, and Insya Allah, will be our leaders one day in ensuring the sustainability of the economy, family well-being, religion and prosperity of the nation,” he said.

Universal Children’s Day, celebrated every November 20 is themed ‘Reimagine a Better World’ this year.

Universal Children’s Day aims to increase the spirit of unity and raise awareness on the rights and well-being of children, among the community, families and children.