Learning about their rights empowers ākonga

Issue: Volume 101, Number 2

Posted: 23 February 2022
Reference #: 1HASxn

A new education programme developed by Save the Children New Zealand aims to teach Year 0–13 ākonga in Aotearoa about their rights under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Tamariki at Freemans Bay School recently enjoyed the Bandaid activity.

Tamariki at Freemans Bay School recently enjoyed the Bandaid activity.

The more children understand about their rights, the more likely they are to speak out when their own rights, or the rights of others, aren’t being met, says Jacqui Southey, advocacy and research director for Save the Children New Zealand (SCNZ).

“Despite New Zealand signing up to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child almost 30 years ago (1993), many New Zealanders have little understanding of the Convention or what it means for our children in Aotearoa,” she says.

Jacqui explains that while there is a requirement to teach children about rights in The New Zealand Curriculum, learning about children’s rights in a New Zealand context is less common.

“Knowing about their rights adds a protective layer where children understand they have the right to be protected from harm or to have a say on issues that are important to them,” says Jacqui.

“When children learn about their rights, they also learn about the rights of others. Research shows they are more likely to respect the rights of others and speak up when they see injustices or to offer support to those who need it.”

Education hub

Save the Children has developed an education hub(external link) with resources that aim to put a rights-based lens on common themes and issues relating to children.

The resources have been developed by SCNZ’s child, youth and schools engagement coordinator, Elisabeth Fraser. She says that educating children about their rights provides a protective factor for tamariki as they navigate childhood, and supports them to develop skills in speaking up for change, and empowers their sense of agency.

“Rights education in Aotearoa New Zealand has been largely limited to units of work about ‘rights and responsibilities’, however, this can be enhanced by embedding it into daily life, both in school and at home,” she explains.

“Every topic can be framed through a rights lens. For example, units studying water relate to a right to clean water and health; or cultural days or units recognise a child’s right to practise their culture and language.”

Relevant and tangible

Shelley Duncan is the Year 3–4 co-team leader at Freemans Bay School in Auckland and was looking forward to using the resource at the beginning of term 1.

“We have a big focus on belonging here. Freemans Bay School is in central Auckland and it’s incredibly diverse in ethnicity and culture. Understanding that all children have the same rights really creates a sense of unity and belonging. Because it doesn’t matter where you come from, who you are, what your background is, it just creates that equal playing field,” she says.

The resources include a back-to-school series of lessons on children’s rights and building a positive classroom culture. It also includes a Bandaid lesson which teaches about fairness and equity, and conceptualises why treating everyone exactly the same isn’t always the fair thing to do, says Shelley.

“The lessons are beautifully written and easy to follow, and they are deliberate. You know they’re going to be engaging and it’s just one less thing to think about.

“For example, the Bandaid lesson is about fairness and using the concept of putting a plaster on an injury. You go through the class, and everyone gets their Bandaid, but it doesn’t always treat their wound or injury. So, you unpack that with a discussion at the end about what’s fair. It’s such a great context to take back to our students, and for them to learn to tell us what they need as well.”

Shelley argues that learning about children’s rights also fits with education for sustainability.

“The reason we look at rights alongside real world problems, like sustainability, is we want our ākonga to grow up as informed citizens and ideally to know what a good citizen does as part of society.

“Starting on that path early is key – instilling that sense of pride in your school, also your responsibilities. You have to look after the environment, resources and each other – as well as respecting tikanga Māori,” she concludes. 

Save the Children resources

The free online programme aims to help children in Aotearoa learn about their rights; from access to healthcare, housing and education to being protected from violence or practising their culture.

It includes a range of cross-curricular resources for teachers, children and their whānau, and the school community.

Five things kids should know about their rights

  • A short online film aims to teach children about five things all kids should know about their rights.

  • Save the Children education hub(external link), including a new resource pack to be launched for World Water Day (March 22), with science, maths and children’s rights themes and activities to mark the day. 

Further resources on children’s rights

Office of the Children’s Commissioner resources(external link), including a new resource about supporting children and young people to have conversations about Covid-19.

He Whakaaetanga Whakatau i te Mana o te Tamaiti a te Whakakotahitanga o ngā Whenua o te Ao(external link) (a translation of the Convention in te reo Māori)

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 12:30 PM, 23 February 2022

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