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Human rights education in schools

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EMPOWERED: Higher education is no longer a dream.
EMPOWERED: Higher education is no longer a dream.

SANGEETH KURIAN

A new programme to help school children realise the importance of values of human rights and dignity from a young age.

It is a goal dreamt of by every individual; that which is aspired for by every human community... Women and men, young and old yearn for this... This desire is in everyone of us. All of us feel the need for it. Still wondering what this priceless possession is Human Dignity.A virtue for which two of the leading lights of our country, Mahatma Gandhi and B.R. Ambedkar battled throughout their lives. If it was the expulsion from a railway compartment reserved for white men that made Gandhiji resolve to fight and uphold the dignity of Indians, for Ambedkar it was the insult heaped upon him at school that forced him to take up the cudgels. Ambedkar was not allowed to sit along with other students in the classroom as he hailed from a lower caste. Instead he was forced to squat on the floor on top of a gunny sack. The experience prodded him to work for the liberation of the Dalits.

The launch

Realising the importance of instilling values of human rights and dignity in children at early age, the South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring (SICHREM) in association with the Institute of Human Rights Education has launched a programme on Human Rights Education for students of Std. VI in 55 schools across the State from the previous academic year.Selected teachers from each school impart the programme during free periods to the students with the help of a course module, a 140-page book provided free of cost to the students. The module is designed in such a way that it gives an opportunity to teachers and students to share their experience. Every lesson is introduced by way of stories, dialogues, historic incidents, experiences, speech of a character or through interviews. At the end of each lesson selected excerpts from the Constitution of India and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights are given to the students. They are also given classroom and home exercises to create awareness in students about themselves and their society. "The sessions have led to a more personal bonding between the teachers and the students," said P.J. Josey, State convenor, SICHREM.The students now discuss their personal problems more freely with the teachers. They have started raising all types of questions regarding the community in which they live in, " said Josey.Said Bhagavathy Radhakrishnan who teaches at the Carmel Girls Higher Secondary School in the city: "After learning the programme, children have become more mature. Now they know what child labour is and why it should be stopped." According to Mohammed Saleem, who teaches at A.U.P.S. Karuvambaram in Manjeri, education in human rights has imparted a feeling of "confidence" and "courage" to the Muslim girls of Malappuram. Today they even cycle to school, he said. Though the Muslim girls in the district receive primary education, they are rarely allowed to pursue higher education by their parents, he said. "Most of them discontinue their studies after plus-two and get married. The parents play a major role in preparing their daughters mentally to accept this situation," said Saleem. Now with human rights education they have gained confidence. "The girls have started insisting that they will get married only after getting a job or acquiring the necessary qualification," said Saleem.The programme is implemented in 10 States, through regional partners. The three-year programme for Stds. VI to VIII, is implemented in schools as a part of the UN world programme for Human Rights Education. The same batch of students learn the programme till Std. VIII. There are three separate modules for each class, "human rights education - an introduction," "child rights", and "discrimination."


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