Being a student means spending most of your time in an educational environment. Around the world, most children and teenage students spend a minimum of 5 hours a day, 180 days a year at school. You’re exposed to different knowledge and experiences that not only affect the present but shape your future. Math, science, history, literature and more are all studied to help develop your perspective, intelligence, and culture.
Many teachers and administrators know that not only is that important, but it’s also important to teach students to be more aware of the world around them and the current issues at hand, such as human rights.
Schools are an ideal environment for young learners to learn about what human rights are and how to identify and denounce violations of these rights. But where to start? Becoming a human rights-friendly school isn’t easy. However simple steps can lead to greater changes. Here are two ideas that are both adaptable and effective.
Human Rights Activists at Home and Abroad
Search for materials such as magazines, websites, documentaries or movies, newspaper articles, etc. about human rights activists. As the students read, it’s important to help them realize that many of these activists are common people doing extraordinary things.
Getting to know their story and the reason people fight for human rights will help students develop empathy and awareness. This might also lead them to ideas on what they might be interested in defending or what human rights issues are important to them. Sharing the stories of people such as Malala Yousafzai or Mohamed Soltan can be powerful and inspirational.
Don’t forget to look for and invite a local activist to have a discussion with the students. This will bring to light issues that are closer to home.
Promoting Human Rights Centered Art
Many students are drawn to the arts. Through music, drama, photography, drawing or poetry, encourage students to express their feelings, beliefs or hopes about a human rights issue. Art can be a powerful form of expression and help to solidify these concepts in their mind.
Talk about artists that touch on human rights topics, listen to their music and show their art. Invite local artists that do the same. Art portrays pain, injustice, and hope in powerful ways and helps students to be aware, respectful and resourceful when it comes to defending human rights.
Creating Engaged Citizens
A school concerned about human rights can have a huge impact on the community it serves. When students become involved and engaged citizens, they help better their environment. They will grow to be compassionate professionals such as Mohamed Soltan or Hina Jilani who defend others and fight for different causes. Teachers can empower students to live in friendlier coexistence with others and be aware of the needs around them.
Through teaching and exemplifying, schools with a human rights education become an inclusive environment where everybody feels comfortable and safe, and to share their beliefs and ideologies.
The human rights perspective can bring a common language to schools, families, and communities: a language of equality, non-discrimination, dignity, participation and respect.