No child abuse, no violence at school, no traffic jam, more places for amusement and less heavy school curriculum - these were among the demands children and teenagers made to the HCM City authorities at a recent meeting.

City leaders had invited more than 80 children from primary and secondary schools and shelters in the city's 24 districts for the exchange on January 1 titled Lang nghe tieng noi tre em (Listen to the Children).

After they went around the century-old city hall on Le Thanh Ton Street in District 1 to look at the offices and meeting rooms, the children were asked for their opinions to improve the city this year.

Chairwoman of the City People's Council Pham Phuong Thao, and Chairman of the City People's Committee, Le Hoang Quan, were among those who listened respectfully to the young ones.

Ngo Thi Minh, vice chairwoman of the National Assembly's Committee for Culture, Education, Youth, Pioneers and Children, and officials from various departments were also present.

Many of the children complained that they have to work very hard because of the heavy curriculum, and have no time to rest or play. Besides, their learning is more about theory than practice, they said.

Tran Thi Truc Quynh from Nguyen An Khuong Secondary High School in Hoc Mon District said she has to stay up very late every day to learn theory and has no time to play or be creative.

Ninth grader Phan Thi Phuong Anh from Tam Thon Hiep Secondary High School in Can Gio district said frankly that her rural district does not have good teachers because all the good ones were posted in urban districts. "But the city government says all the time it will give priority to outlying districts."

Teachers in her area have to juggle several subjects at a time, she said, adding the authorities should appoint more good teachers in the district.

Many spoke about violence in school and child abuse which are becoming increasingly prevalent in the city.

Huynh Dinh Can, an eighth grader from Dong Den Secondary High School in Binh Chanh district, said he is worried by the violence and urged the authorities to curb it.

The children also expressed their opinions about environmental protection and social welfare.

One suggested setting up a park for children since other parks are frequented by necking couples and drug users, and another called for designating a day when no vehicles except bicycles should be used in the city.

A child pointed to the electricity that was being wasted in the hall by air-conditioners running at very low temperatures and lights burning unnecessarily. City authorities have been urging residents to save energy to protect the environment.

The city has named 2011 as the Year of Children.

Quan said the city would offer children the best conditions for developing their talents and protect them from negative impacts.

"The city of nine million people has more than two million students. They will be very important human resources contributing to the city's development. That's why the People's Council has chosen this as the Year of Children."

Thao too promised the city would do more to create favourable conditions for children to develop and contribute./.