As Eleanor Roosevelt, the driving force behind the 1948 United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, famously said:
Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighbourhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works … Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere.”
Human Rights Education not only advances knowledge about human rights and active citizenship, but also promotes democratic principles, communication skills and stimulates critical thinking across all sections of society. It is equally relevant to academics, community groups and individuals. It is a transformational and participative approach to lifelong learning that empowers learners of all ages with knowledge and skills to understand their individual and collective rights and responsibilities.
If society hopes for a world where peace, security, freedom and prosperity reign—where hate, malice, inequality and abuse are things of the past—then we must teach and instill in every child the values and qualities necessary to help bring about such results and achieve success.”
Time and again, history has shown us that when basic human needs or rights are denied, a blame culture based on negative attitudes towards ‘others’ can catch hold very quickly resulting in racism, xenophobia and other abuses or violations of human rights.
I really believe that the role of education in all its various dimensions is crucial to the enjoyment of human rights and to the peaceful and equitable coexistence of all people. Human Rights Education is an important element to ensure a fair, equal, and cohesive society free from prejudice and discrimination.
I developed 6 lessons on Human Rights for my students where they learnt about human rights, about abuses of human rights, about the Civil Rights Movement and how all of this relates to their own lives and finally after reading Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech I asked them to write about their own dreams.
This project was very intense and satisfying for myself. It gave me the opportunity to get to know my pupils a little better. The pupils showed a great participation and the lessons were very interactive in a very natural way. Students felt free to express themselves, also having different opinions and thoughts. They all had a sense of empathy through the whole issue. I’m sure they know a little bit more about their human rights now and I hope they have become aware of some of their responsibilities.
For more details of the lessons click here: I Have a Dream Human Rights Lesson Plan
To read some of my students’ responses to the assignment at the end where they shared their own dreams click here: