What’s Happening for the Young? RRSA at WHY? Festival 2016
In October, Paul Harris from Unicef’s UK’s Rights Respecting Schools team delivered two workshops at the annual WHY? Festival, held in the Southbank Centre in London Waterloo.
Zoey Ayling, one of our Programme Support Officers, writes about the day.
WHY? Festival, inspired by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, showcases talks, exhibitions and workshops that encourage children and young people to explore and celebrate their rights.
More than 200 children and teachers from six primary schools across London attended the Unicef UK workshops, four of which were on their Rights Respecting Schools journey.
As someone who is relatively new to the programme, it was inspiring for me to see children so empowered. That the Convention encouraged them to contribute towards making a positive change in their lives, and influencing the world around them was clearly visible.
So, why are rights important for children to understand?
A pupil from Brookfield Primary School wrote: “Rights are important because they help children to have an education, and be able to play, learn and have peace in the world.”
A pupil from Thomas Buxton Primary School continued, “It doesn’t matter what religion you are, you have the same rights. Everyone has a right to have their say.”
In our society, the rights of children are often overlooked and many children do not have a basic knowledge of them. Often, children can receive unfair treatment or be ignored in decision-making on issues that affect them. The Convention changes the way children are treated and viewed, and emphasises that children have voices that must be heard.
Unicef UK’s workshops explored what children’s rights are, and what it means for them and for children around the world. Whilst discussing Article 28, the right to education, a pupil from Deanesfield Primary School made comparisons between children’s lives in the Victorian times and of Malala Yousafzai, the Education Activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
Bringing it closer to home, the pupils discussed how their schools protected their rights. This ranged from putting hands up to speak, having a school student council and having an anonymous “worry-box” for children to write down their concerns and talk about it within the class.
After discussing the difference between wants, needs and rights, many pupils were surprised to learn that children do not have the right to be happy.
“Why do you think that is?” asked Paul.
“Only you can control your emotions,” replied an insightful pupil from Elmshurst Primary School. “If you want to be happy, you can be happy. If you want to be sad or angry, you can be sad or angry. It’s your choice.”
Children left the workshops with a thorough understanding of rights, many with a deeper understanding of why rights are important for them and how they can be used.
As one pupil from the South Norwood Academy said, “Rights have no strength if we don’t have the strength to make change.”
Find out more about WHY? Festival and consider it for visit for your class in 2017.