Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Human Rights as a subject in the classroom – My Reflections

Human rights can seem truly abstract to many people, especially those living in societies where the protection and promotion of human rights is not considered a priority.

To a child growing up in North Korea, China, Algeria, Somalia or many other countries; the concepts of having some inalienable rights as a human being may really sound abstract and unreal.

It is therefore important for educators to guide learners to see the interconnected nature of our world and help them understand that they have some basic rights, which are globally accepted, by all countries. Learners living in countries with poor Human Rights records need to be guided to understand that simply because their governments doesn’t respect, protect and promote these rights those not in any way negate their existence, validity and incumbency.

In my local context, teaching learners to acquire skills and knowledge that will enable them recognize their rights and maintain a proactive stance in the enforcement of these rights will require: -

1. Firstly guiding them to understand the interconnected nature of global relations.

2. Guiding them to understand the system of international conventions and the legal binding effects of the various Instruments signed at these conventions.

3. Guiding them to understand the various possible civil pressures that could be exerted to persuade governments to sign up to International Rights instruments, if they haven’t done so.

4. Guiding them to identify key local and global institutions and organizations that are actively involved in human rights issues.

5. Guide them to understand the human rights situation in our society by researching into human rights struggles and see if any results were achieved as a result of the efforts.

6. Guide them to understand the concepts of human rights in the context of their local religious and cultural realities.

Children rights is a sensitive topic in most of out local societies and in my local context, I have to take into consideration the cultural and sometimes religious interpretation s of who the child is taken to be.

In some of our local communities, the child is expected only to be seen, but never heard. S/he is expected to be totally submissive to laid down norms even if they infringe upon his/her basic human rights as enshrined in the CRC!
Any complaint or protest against the status quo may mark the child as “undisciplined”, “rude” etc.
In my local society, there is little or no opportunity for initiating action to prevent or stop human rights violations. The social welfare structure for monitoring and preventing child abuse is nearly nonexistent.

To ensure a transformation of this reality will actually require being able to get everyone concerned to see the protection and promotion of children’s rights as a worthwhile venture that has multiple benefits for everyone.

With the learners guided to understand their rights and knowing the available mechanisms for protecting these rights, and parents guided to understand the positive effects of protecting and promoting these rights; Human Rights Education will definitely have a meaning in the life of the society.
Child labour, forced marriages, denial of access to education, child-sexual abuse, physical abuse etc.. are not uncommon in the society and they are strongly defended with porous cultural and religious reasons.

It is possible to get a remedy if the children are guided to understand their rights and know the available avenues for seeking help if these rights are violated.

Parents on the other hand need to be made to see the dangers in the various rights abuses and how they damage the child’s normal development and stunt his/her future potentials.

In guiding child learners to understand the concepts of human rights; I, as an educator must put the above considerations in mind. It will be most feasible to guide the learners to acquire persuasive engagement skills especially when dealing with perceived violations in their immediate environments especially in their homes.

Many parents out here still hold on to the notion that their unilateral decisions in the home are final and not open to any debate or suggestion. They believe that children are never to question the rationality, objectivity, fairness or legality of their parents’ decisions, even if the decisions directly affect the children themselves. I such families, it is forbidden for children to ever ask “WHY?”

Where feasible, it is useful for a teacher to get to know parents of his/her students. This could give the teacher an added opportunity of educating them on the potential positive effects the promotion and protection of children rights can have on the all-round development of the children.

A Parents-Teacher discussion forum could be organized once in while to give students a better understanding of the rights their children are entitled to.

This will prevent possible misconceptions from illiterate conservative parents who may misconstrue the Human Rights Education efforts as being designed to weaken their authority, or to turn their children against them.

1 comment:

  1. Ibrahim,

    I would agree that we have to teach adults as well as children about the rights of children and the rights of all individuals. It is a difficult task especially if adults are giving up their authority to a conservative leader in their lives.

    I like your idea of getting to know the parents of the children we teach. I'm not sure it would work to teach children about human rights without also informing their parents.


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This work by Ibrahim K. Oyekanmi (mallamibro@gmail.com) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.