For 16-year-old Sanjukta Pangi, meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the G8 Summit in Rome, was a dream come true. Making the most of the opportunity, she spoke to him about promoting quality education for all Indian children and in particular, issues faced by tribal people and the need for access to education.
Pangi, who hails from Koratpur, Orissa, was accompanied by Narendra Kumar from Rae-Bareli, UP, and Samuel Venkatesan, Krishnagiri, Tamil Nadu, representing India at the Junior 8 (J8) — a parallel youth summit for 52 young people between the ages of 14-17 from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Russian Federation, UK, US, Brazil, China, Egypt, Mexico and South Africa. At the meeting, the J8 representatives presented their recommendations for the leaders attending the G8. All of them emphasised the need for high-quality post-primary education for all children and a safe trip to school.
During her meeting with the Prime Minister, Pangi also read the recommendations made by the J8 on education, climate change, the global financial crisis and poverty reduction in Africa. Sharing her story, she says, “Transportation is a huge problem, especially in hilly areas like ours, where we have to walk down several miles to reach the school. So, I shared these problems with the Prime Minister and asked him to consider the matter as access to education is very important.” She opined also that, since every child has a right to quality education, the standard of education in government schools should be the same as the private ones.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) supports the J8 to allow young people to have their voices heard by the G8 and non-G8 leaders to help influence policies that affect these children’s lives. And Pangi’s mission isn’t over yet. “We have made an action plan that we all will implement when we go back to our daily lives,” she says.