Conflicts and Poverty by Marina Spyrou, Belgium

The consequences of war are detrimental not only to the development of a country but also to individual lives of adults and children alike. FILE/UNPHOTOAre we not people of the 21st century? Then why are we tolerating the fact that in this day and age, so many children are being deprived of something so basic and incredibly essential in a person's adult life, something that could mean life or death?

I have a friend in the Becaa whose family is living off the minimum wages.. Because her family cannot afford anything better, my friend has no choice but to go to a dismally mediocre school with old, tattered, and dilapidated text books with old and outdated methods of teaching.

The school buildings are substandard, with stifling heat in the summer, and freezing cold in the winter. I find it hard to imagine how the students can possibly concentrate and work productively in such difficult conditions. Still, she is much more fortunate than many other children who, instead of being allowed [to] start and finish at least basic education, are forced to help their parents by working in the fields.

To them, present day survival is more important than dreaming and implementing plans for a better future. Those illiterate.children's education has been so neglected, they have virtually no alternative but to live a life of farm work and perpetuate the vicious cycle of poverty.

By educating a child, one not only creates a better future for that specific individual, but also creates the foundation for a better future in a country. The prosperity of a nation is directly connected to the level of education of its people. This is particularly true and obvious in the 21st century. It is impossible to afford illiteracy and substandard education in this technologically competitive and advanced global culture.

A good education should not be a privilege of the lucky few, but should be made a birthright of every child of every nation.

Margarita is a blonde thin girl with blue eyes and she is my age, I am ten. I met her last summer in a playground on the Island of Tinos in Greece . I was on holidays.

Margarita was not there for holidays, she is from Serbia and she was sitting at the edge of the playground begging. She was very sad, dressed in an old and dirty dress. Most people passed her by and some gave her a little money.

I had a talk with her. With my pocket money I offered her an ice cream from a nearby little shop. She had not had an ice cream for a long time she told me. She and her family were Serb farmers in Kosovo. They were living happily but then war came, and fear and they had to leave their country and they came to Greece . Then, she was 4 years old. Their life in Greece was miserable, they were very poor. Her father died because there was no money to go to hospital, their mother was sick, and herself and her brother were begging to live. She was not going to any school and often she was very hungry.

Article three of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights tells us that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

The image of the little Serb girl came to my mind when I read these simple words. Her life, liberty and security were in danger, and for that reason they left their and she was obliged to live in deep poverty in bad houses, unhealthy and dangerous areas and to have a "job" nobody normally wants to do.

All this shows that poverty is a very serious problem and that all the nations. should put together their efforts in order to change this. I also think that we should all act like brothers and sisters in a world of peace.

Excerpted from Marina Spyrou, Age 10, Belgium, Highly Commended, Writing Contest for International Human Rights Day 2006, Cyberschoolbus, United Nations