By MURPHY BROWNE (Abena Agbetu)
The child is entitled to receive education, which shall be free and compulsory, at least in the elementary stages. He shall be given an education which will promote his general culture and enable him, on a basis of equal opportunity, to develop his abilities, his individual judgement, and his sense of moral and social responsibility, and to become a useful member of society.
The best interests of the child shall be the guiding principle of those responsible for his education and guidance; that responsibility lies in the first place with his parents.
The child shall have full opportunity for play and recreation, which should be directed to the same purposes as education; society and the public authorities shall endeavour to promote the enjoyment of this right.
Article 7 from the “Declaration of the Rights of the Child” which was adopted by the United Nations as General Assembly Resolution 1386 (XIV) on 10 December 1959.
I had a very interesting conversation with my grand-daughter this weekend about the history and value of education for Africans, especially in North America where we live. The conversation began as she was doing her homework and it soon became obvious that she was also very interested in how to handle bullying. The conversation meandered between the history of enslaved Africans being denied formal education to today where all children are entitled to free elementary education and should also enjoy their time in school free from bullying.
Canada is one of the now 193 countries that have signed the “United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child”. We discussed Article 7 at length because that article deals with the right to education and for “full opportunity for play and recreation, which should be directed to the same purposes as education; society and the public authorities shall endeavour to promote the enjoyment of this right”.
The right to enjoyment of education, play and recreation is something to which every child is entitled. The child also has the right to “an education which will promote his general culture and enable him, on a basis of equal opportunity, to develop his abilities, his individual judgement, and his sense of moral and social responsibility, and to become a useful member of society”.
Our discussion included the role of those adults who work in the education system to ensure that children were free from bullying so that they could develop their abilities, individual judgment and sense of moral and social responsibility to become useful members of society. We discussed what being a useful member of society would be and agreed that in elementary school it included doing homework to ensure taking every opportunity to learn.
On the website of the “Canadian Coalition of the Rights of the Child” (CCRC) we read a report on how well Canada implements the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The CCRC also makes recommendations for major changes.
One of the recommendations from the report entitled “Right in Principle, Right in Practice” was: “Canada needs to focus on developing the full potential of every child, to help address the challenges of its aging population. That is the central theme of the report. Too many children face obstacles to realizing their full potential.”
My grand-daughter and I discussed the importance of that recommendation; that she and other children must be educated to “realize their full pot potential” to take care of the aging population which will be the people who are adults today. I reminded her that having access to education was a dream for our ancestors during the enslavement of Africans. We talked about the risks that enslaved Africans took when they tried to learn to read and write which is taken for granted by their descendants. Enslaved Africans risked being maimed and murdered by their White enslavers if it was discovered that they were literate.
On November 20, 1989, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the “Convention on the Rights of the Child”. On November 20 each year, Canada recognizes National Child Day because of the “Convention on the Rights of the Child” which covers the rights of children (political, health, education, etc.,) in one document.
The Convention has 54 articles describing specific rights for children. These rights include: Children have a right to good health, food and drinkable water. They also have the right to be raised by their parents. They have a right to a home, clothing, good food, an education and time to play. They have a right to protection from violence (which includes bullying by other children or adults) abuse and slavery.
Since 1989, 193 countries have promised to defend and promote the rights of children and improve their living conditions by signing the Convention. Only three members of the United Nations have not signed onto the Convention: Somalia, South Sudan and the United States of America.
By agreeing to the Convention, countries like Canada promise to respect the rights of children listed in the document. All children are entitled to the same protection and services, regardless of whether the child is a boy, a girl, a refugee, Aboriginal, has a disability or is a member of a racialized group. Countries must ensure that children are not discriminated against on the basis of race, colour, gender, religion, origins, a disability, language, political opinions or economic status. Children have the right to give their opinions and take part in decisions that affect them. Children also have freedom of expression which gives them the right to write a letter to be published in a newspaper or to participate in a legal public gathering.
By the time she was preparing to go home my grand-daughter was “wondering” why many adults (even educators) seem not to know about or care to recognize the Convention on the Rights of the Child and that every child has rights especially to an education and play time free from bullying.