CCHRE supports human rights education developments in Ireland
CCHRE Director Audrey Osler was the keynote speaker at the Inspiring Practice Cross-Border Conference on Human Rights Education held in Belfast on 20 October 2006. Around 150 delegates met to discuss how HRE can be further strengthened in primary schools in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Professor Osler explored the links between human rights education and citizenship education, arguing that in multicultural democracies, education for democratic citizenship needs to be based on human rights. Citizenship is a status, a feeling and a practice. Citizenship as status can be exclusive. Not all children in a class may necessarily have the formal status of citizen. But all children are holders of human rights. Human rights are those rights that everyone has, simply because they are human. John Clarke, deputy head of Children’s Services in Hampshire, described the steps Hampshire has taken to make human rights, respect and responsibility an integral part of school life.
Audrey Osler introduced the report Democracy and Diversity: principles and concepts for educating citizens in a global age launched by CCHRE in Leeds last July. It has a valuable checklist which allows schools to assess the degree to which they are engaging with democracy, diversity and human rights.
Professor Osler says: ‘Schools can do a lot to enable children to feel a sense of belonging. Although some children may feel marginalised, schools can take practical steps help young children feel part of the school community and to enable them to make a difference. Teachers can support children in examining some of the everyday barriers to belonging, such as poverty, racism and sectarianism, by studying the stories of those who have fought successfully to overcome injustice.’
Children from Griffeen Valley Educate Together Primary in Dublin and St Mark’s Primary School in Belfast told delegates how they had made a difference to their schools and local communities. By working together in a pupils’ union and school council, the children had not only improved their schools, but had campaigned for workers’ rights and fought to prevent a child being deported, appearing on TV to make the case that deportation would undermine his right to education. The children had a strong sense of belonging and were experiencing the practice of citizenship.
Chief Commissioner Professor Monica McWilliams, of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, welcomed teachers and policy-makers on behalf of an impressive partnership: Amnesty International, NI Human Rights Commission, Irish Human Rights Commission and the two teacher unions, INTO, the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation, and Ulster Teachers’ Union.
With the support of Amnesty International and the unions, teachers developed excellent human rights curriculum materials – Lift Off. Those who want to further develop their understanding of HRE can now take part in a distance learning course. Representatives from government departments (DENI and DES) and from the curriculum authorities (CCEA and NCCA) were asked to explain how they will take HRE forward. CCHRE calls on policy-makers in England to build upon this good practice and support English schools in guaranteeing all children their entitlement to HRE.