In 1989, governments around the world adopted the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. These rights embody what all children need in order to survive, grow and fulfil their potential in the world, including an education. Yet 25 years on, there are still 58 million primary aged children and over 60 million adolescents worldwide who are out of school. And around a third of these children live in Sub-Saharan Africa. Getting 300,000 of these African children an education is the focus for schools’ fundraising for this year’s Red Nose Day, which will take place on Friday 15th March. All too often, our young people take part in fundraising activities like this without any true understanding of the purpose of what they are doing. This lesson plan is an opportunity to bring real meaning to Red Nose Day in your school while at the same time empowering students to take action on an issue they learn about in citizenship.
Why Teach This?
Most children in the UK take for granted their right to go to school. This lesson plan aims to open their eyes to the lives of the millions of young people worldwide who are still denied this opportunity. In doing so, it gives students an insight into children’s rights and why education is so important. Inspired by what they have discovered, the students go on to take action to support every child’s right to access an education.
Start by explaining to the students that human rights aim to ensure that everyone in the world – whoever they are and wherever they live – has the fundamental things they need to stay safe, healthy and happy. Divide the students into small groups and give each a set of cards listing different needs/rights and wants (e.g. education, decent shelter, nutritious food, health care, clean environment, freedom to say what you think, protection from violence and abuse, relaxation and play; holidays, fashionable clothes, a games console, a TV, a computer, fast food, chocolate). Ask the students to sort the cards into two piles: one for the things they need and one for the things they want. Then ask them to look at the ‘need’ cards and select the five most important. Collect in the top five cards from each group and read out the different priorities the students have chosen. Do they agree about what’s most important? Ask students with different views to argue their case for putting a particular need first. Have any of the groups chosen education as a priority? If not, explain that you’re going to change their mind! Tell the students that 25 years ago governments around the world signed up to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This identified education as a key right of every child:
Every child has the right to an education. Primary education must be free. Secondary education must be available to every child. Discipline in schools must respect children’s human dignity. Wealthy countries must help poorer countries achieve this. Talk with the students about how this right is met in the UK.
Why do we go to school?
For students really to grasp why it is important for children in Africa to go to school, they first need to recognise the difference that going to school makes to their own lives. Ask the class to tell you some of the things they did at the weekend and write them on the whiteboard. Then ask them to imagine that they had never been to school and couldn’t read, write or understand numbers. Would they be able to enjoy doing the same things? What difficulties might they encounter when travelling around, shopping etc.? Then ask all students whose surname begins with ‘S’ to come to the front of the class (you might want to pick an initial that will ensure some interesting discussion!) Ask the students in turn what they think they want to do when they leave school. Then ask them to imagine that the government has announced that, as of today, children whose surname begins with ‘S’ will no longer be able to get an education or take exams. What difference would this make? If it happened, how would they feel about their future?
Missing out on school
Explain to the students that although they take the right to an education for granted, around the world millions of children are denied this right, mainly as a result of poverty. Show the students Comic Relief’s film about Rebecca, an 18-year-old who lives in Zambia (you can find the film at www.rednoseday.com/teachseco ndarylesson). As they watch the film, ask them to make notes about the factors that prevented Rebecca going to school and how getting an education is now making a difference to her life. Ask them to share what they have found out about how education can help to lift young people like Rebecca out of poverty. What difference will being able to get a better job make to her life? And in turn to her children’s lives?
Be a human rights campaigner
Point out to the students that the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child places a responsibility on countries like the UK to help ensure that all children get the right to go to school: Wealthy countries must help poorer countries achieve this. Talk with the students about some of the ways in which the UK helps developing countries. As an individual, what actions could they take to reduce the number of children who miss out on the chance of an education? You could encourage them to write to their local MP, explaining why they believe so strongly that every child has the right to an education and asking for their support. Explain that they really can influence change; their MP can take their requests for action to the government, which then makes decisions on what to fund. Encourage them also to get involved in planning, promoting and taking part in fundraising activities on Red Nose Day.
Give the students a summary of the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child. Ask them to identify a right that they feel particularly strongly about and to make an illustrated poster incorporating the wording of that right. You could use the posters to make a display in the classroom.
About Our Expert
Richard Wood is Deputy Headteacher at King James’s School in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire (www.kingjames. co.uk). A business and economics specialist, he teaches PSHCEE at Key Stages 3 and 4.
Stretch Them Further
You could ask some of the more able and confident students to lead an assembly about red nose day for their year group. they could show the comic relief film and explain why it is so important that we raise money to ensure more african children get the chance to go to school. The right to education for all cannot be achieved without strong legal and policy frameworks. ask students to research laws that the uk government has passed to help protect children’s right to go to school.
Remind the students of the activity at the start of the lesson, when they prioritised different children’s rights. Ask how many of them would now put education in their top five? Why? Their responses should show a new understanding of how much a child’s future wellbeing depends on getting an education. Ask how many of them have been inspired to take action as a human rights campaigner by trying to get more children into school? What are they going to do?