Thursday, 24 June 2010

Undocumented Children - Children's right to identity

This Is Who I Am is a project for recognizing the identity of vulnerable children - touching upon the core of children's citizenship rights.

If you loose your passport, identity document, birth certificate…

How do you prove who you are?

Millions of children worldwide are unregistred - and as a result stateless:
Without nationality or identity they are not included in official statistics - they basically do not exist and do not have any protection.

This Is Who I Am is an ambitious project aimed at providing children who are unregistred with an identity, proof that they do exist, that they do have a background, a history.

video


Knowing Children will soon put up a website that provides further information and ways to scale up the project to recognize the identity of undocumented children.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Children’s Participation: Experiences in capacity building and training

Children’s Participation: Experiences in capacity building and training, by Henk van Beers, Save the Children Sweden, ISBN 91-89366-96-4, Stockholm, 2002.

I have decided to make this book available in PDF (although the quality is poor since it is a scan of the hard copy) because the experiences are still valuable and maybe helpful when it comes to capacity building on children's participation, and people have been asking me for a copy. Hard copies should still be available from Save the Children Sweden in Stockholm.

This book reflects on experiences in building the capacity of staff of organisations for street and working children to do participatory action research in Kenya from 1995-2000.

In 1995 SNV (Stichting Nederlandse Vrijwilligers – Netherlands Development Organisation) launched a programme in Kenya to assist street children projects in improving their work with children. The programme’s main components were organisational strengthening and capacity building, targeting both staff and management. Over a five year period, four 10-month training courses in Participatory Action Research with children were organised for staff of approximately 30 projects to enable them to undertake their own research, to find out more about the children they work with and to enhance the involvement of children in programming. The training also aimed to enhance the skills of staff in working with children.

In two projects a comprehensive in-house training scheme for all staff and management was conducted to address various constraints in their work in a child-focused way. In addition, a number of separate workshops and seminars on children's rights and participation were organised for various groups of organisations which with children in need of special protection measures. Additional training needs were addressed where they arose such as the need to improve counselling skills.

The experiences show that major benefits can be derived from involving children at project level, in policy development and in research. Looking at existing interventions from children’s perspectives may require a critical review of approaches, as is shown in this report. However, by providing children with an active role in their own development interventions become more relevant and effective.

This publication analyses experiences from capacity building and training in children's participation in project contexts. It examines the results of training adults and provides detailed examples of different ways to involve children.

The lessons learnt may be useful for organisations and individuals who plan to promote children's participation in their policies, research and interventions. It may be of specific use for agencies and professionals who work in different socio-cultural contexts where the concept of children's participation may be seen as alien to existing societal norms and values. Children can participate and make contributions to issues that affect them – and this report shows the benefits of children's participation both for children and adults.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Understanding article 12

The Committee on the Rights of the Child adopts general comments based on specific articles, provisions and themes of the Convention on the Rights of the Child to assist the States parties in fulfilling their obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and to stimulate international organizations and specialized agencies to effectively work on the full realization of children's rights. These general comments basically are the Committee’s interpretation of the content of certain articles or thematic issues.
The Committee on the Rights of the Child has issued general comments on the following subjects:
1. The aims of education
2. The role of independent human rights institutions
3. HIV/AIDS and the rights of the child
4. Adolescent Health
5. General measures of implementation for the Convention on the Rights of the Child
6. Treatment of unaccompanied and separated children outside their country of origin
7. Implementing child rights in early childhood
8. The right of the child to protection from corporal punishment and other cruel or degrading forms of punishment
9. The rights of children with disabilities
10. Children’s rights in Juvenile Justice
11. Indigenous children and their rights under the Convention
12. The right of the child to be heard


The Committee sometimes decides to develop a general comment on an article, provision or theme that has been discussed earlier in one of its General Day of Discussion. Since 1992, the Committee on the rights of the Child organized 13 general days of discussion on specific provisions of the Convention or on related issues. The Committee always adopt recommendations at the end of such a thematic discussion day.

In 2009 the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child published a general comment on article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (the Convention) is a unique provision in a human rights treaty; it addresses the legal and social status of children, who, on the one hand lack the full autonomy of adults but, on the other, are subjects of rights. Paragraph 1 assures, to every child capable of forming his or her own views, the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with age and maturity. Paragraph 2 states, in particular, that the child shall be afforded the right to be heard in any judicial or administrative proceedings affecting him or her.

The right of all children to be heard and taken seriously constitutes one of the fundamental values of the Convention. The Committee on the Rights of the Child has identified article 12 as one of the four general principles of the Convention, the others being the right to non-discrimination, the right to life and development, and the primary consideration of the child’s best interests, which highlights the fact that this article establishes not only a right in itself, but should also be considered in the interpretation and implementation of all other rights.

In 2006, the Committee held a day of general discussion on the right of the child to be heard in order to explore the meaning and significance of article 12, its linkages to other articles, and the gaps, good practices and priority issues that need to be addressed in order to further the enjoyment of this right. The present general comment arises from the exchange of information which took place on that day, including with children, the accumulated experience of the Committee in reviewing States parties’ reports, and the very significant expertise and experience of translating the right embodied in article 12 into practice by governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), community organizations, development agencies, and children themselves.

The general comment aims to support the effective implementation of article 12 and strengthening the understanding of the meaning of article 12 and its implications.
It aims to elaborate the scope of legislation, policy and practice necessary to achieve full
implementation of article 12 and to highlight the positive approaches in implementing article 12. It also propose basic requirements for appropriate ways to give due weight to children’s
views in all matters that affect them.

Dissecting paragraph 1 of article 12
The first paragraph of article 12 reads:

“1. States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child."


“shall assure”
Article 12, paragraph 1, provides that States parties “shall assure” the right of the child to freely express her or his views. “Shall assure” is a legal term of special strength, which leaves no leeway for State parties’ discretion. Accordingly, States parties are under strict obligation to undertake appropriate measures to fully implement this right for all children. This obligation contains two elements in order to ensure that mechanisms are in place to solicit the views of the child in all matters affecting her or him and to give due weight to those views.


“Capable of forming his or her own views”
States parties shall assure the right to be heard to every child “capable of forming his or her own views”. This phrase should not be seen as a limitation, but rather as an obligation for States parties to assess the capacity of the child to form an autonomous opinion to the greatest extent possible. This means that States parties cannot begin with the assumption that a child is incapable of expressing her or his own views. On the contrary, States parties should presume that a child has the capacity to form her or his own views and recognize that she or he has the right to express them; it is not up to the child to first prove her or his capacity.

no age limit
The Committee emphasizes that article 12 imposes no age limit on the right of
the child to express her or his views, and discourages States parties from introducing
age limits either in law or in practice which would restrict the child’s right to be heard in all matters affecting her or him.

Research shows that the child is able to form views from the youngest age, even when she or he may be unable to express them verbally. Consequently, full implementation of article 12 requires recognition of, and respect for, non-verbal forms of communication including play, body language, facial expressions, and drawing and painting, through which very young children demonstrate understanding, choices and preferences;

“The right to express those views freely”
“Freely” means that the child can express her or his views without pressure and can choose whether or not she or he wants to exercise her or his right to be heard. “Freely” also means that the child must not be manipulated or subjected to undue influence or pressure. “Freely” is further intrinsically related to the child’s “own” perspective: the child has the right to express her or his own views and not the views of others.

The realization of the right of the child to express her or his views requires that the child be informed about the matters, options and possible decisions to be taken and their consequences by those who are responsible for hearing the child, and by the child’s parents or guardian. The child must also be informed about the conditions under which she or he will be asked to express her or his views. This right to information is essential, because it is the precondition of the child’s clarified decisions.

“In all matters affecting the child”
States parties must assure that the child is able to express her or his views “in all matters affecting” her or him. This represents a second qualification of this right: the child must be heard if the matter under discussion affects the child. This basic condition has to be respected and understood broadly.

“Being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child”
This clause refers to the capacity of the child, and stipulates that simply listening to the child is insufficient; the views of the child have to be seriously considered when the child is capable of forming her or his own views.

By requiring that due weight be given in accordance with age and maturity, article 12 makes it clear that age alone cannot determine the significance of a child’s views. Children’s levels of understanding are not uniformly linked to their biological age.


The general comment on article 12 has many more insightful points to better understand the right to be heard within the context of the CRC - see the full text of the general comment.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

The Middle Way - Bridging the Gap Between Cambodian Culture and Children’s Rights

The Middle Way - Bridging the Gap Between Cambodian Culture and Children’s Rights
By Steve Gourley, 2009 NGO Committee on the Rights of the Child, Cambodia, 2009.

This is an exciting piece of research that addresses the lack of comprehensive information available in Cambodia relating to knowledge, attitudes, and practice of ‘children’s rights’. Awareness-raising about children’s rights (CR) has been undertaken on a large scale by civil society organisations and the government and many people in Cambodia can mention at least a few rights that relate to children. Whereas awareness is relatively high, the practice appears to significantly lag behind, especially at the family level where traditional values at times interfere with certain rights, especially when it comes to participation.

The research recommends that governmental and private agencies should adopt more culturally-appropriate methods of education and promotion if children’s rights are to be fully realized at the family level.

Children were involved in planning the research, data validation, formulating recommendations. In addition, a very high proportion of child respondents (50% of all focus group participants and survey respondents) was intentionally selected to ensure that children’s interests were clearly and directly represented in the findings.

Steve Gourley presents a very useful comparison between the values of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and common Cambodian values.

UNCRC values in comparison to Cambodian values:

Equality and participation in contrast to Hierarchy
Transparency in contrast to Honour and Reputation
Gender equity in contrast to Patriarchy
Empowerment in contrast to Patronage
Justice in contrast to Harmony
Individualism in contrast to Collectivism

Steve Gourley notes:
“In view of the dramatic differences that exist, it is important to understand how each contributes to the overall functioning of society – and thus how and why specific values influence behaviour in a particular way. Each of the values above meets specific needs and therefore offers different benefits depending on the context in which they occur. Understanding the positive contribution of each can help decrease the tendency to judge a particular value or value system as “better” than another, illuminate how decision-making and behaviours can differ in various socio-cultural contexts, and help explain the conflicts that often occur between traditional parents and modern children.” (p.17)

Friday, 4 June 2010

The right to be properly researched: How to do rights-based, scientific research with children

This is a boxed set of 10 concise and easy to handle manuals for fieldworkers, giving step-by step guidance, linked to downloadable website materials and covering all aspects of research from conception to report writing.

















Manual 1
Where do we start? explains the rights-based approach to research with children and how it relates to other research approaches.
Manual 2
How do we protect children? deals with the ethical rules and methods necessary in all research with children.
Manual 3
How can we be good researchers with children? provides information necessary for training, so that all researchers are fully equipped to work with children.
Manual 4
What do know already and what do we want to know? sets out the procedures of deciding on research topics and questions.
Manual 5
How are we going to find out? takes researchers through the process of choosing research methods and designing and piloting research tools.
Manual 6
How can we get the best data? provides guidance on research planning and management.
Manual 7
How do we count data? details the processes necessary for numerical analysis.
Manual 8
What do numbers mean? demonstrates the means of changing numerical results into meaningful answers to research questions.
Manual 9
How do we write the report? provides guidance on writing clear reports about research results for a variety of readers, including children.
Manual 10
Research dictionary, is an easy reference dictionary that clarifies the meanings of research terms as they are used in the rights-based approach.

The manual is written by Judith Ennew together with Tatek Abebe, Rattana Bangyai, Parichart Karapituck, Anne Trine Kjorholt and Thanakorn Noonsup, and it can be seen as the ultimate remake of Children in Focus - a Manual for Participatory Research with Children, which she wrote together with Jo Boyden in 1997 and which has been highly popular with people doing research with children.

I normally only publish information here that is available for free on the web, but this case warrants an exception. The printing costs need to be recovered before it can be made available on the web.

US$39.99 a set including postage and packaging

>A powerpoint presentation can be downloaded from the Knowing Children website with further information

Boxed set of 10 paperback manuals
English, diagrams and tables
ISBN: 978-616-7333-00-7

Monday, 10 May 2010

Heroes in Action: Child Advocates in South Africa

Children as advocates, involved in the development of the new Children's Bill in South Africa. This article in Children, Youth and Environments 17(3), 2007 is a case study reflecting on the experiences of the children to contribute their views and ideas to the legislative process.

Here is the abstract as presented in the journal:

Dikwankwetla – Children in Action is the name of an advocacy group of children who participated in the deliberations around the new Children’s Bill in South Africa. Their participation in a legislative process broadens the scope of venues for children’s participation, and challenges the discourse about child participation at a new level. It also raises important conceptual questions about the extent to which children can participate in legislative processes. This paper presents the efforts of Dikwankwetla as a case study, reflecting on its practice and challenges. It interrogates children’s agency in this process, and argues that childhood must be re-conceptualized to recognize that children are political actors in their environments. Looking at the concepts of power and representation, it recognizes the need for a shift in the adult-child relationship, from one based on control to one based on rights and responsibilities. More importantly, it reflects on the implications of facilitating children’s participation in the context of a developing country, where socio-economic and cultural conditions raise different challenges from those in the developed world.

And here is the report of the evaluation of the project by the Children's Institute in Cape Town:

Dikwankwetla – Children in Action Project Evaluation Workshop Report

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Children's participation is based in human rights

The basis in human rights
The United Nations is the source of the international human rights laws currently in use globally, dating from shortly after the Second World War (1939-45). The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) makes it clear that freedom to take part in democratic society is a right for all human beings, an idea that is spelt out in more detail in the 1966 United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. As human beings, children should not be excluded from these rights, but this was not made explicit until the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
It is frequently argued that rights must be counterbalanced by responsibilities (or duties). Although the UNCRC does not mention children’s duties, this is a feature of the regional law of African countries – the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.

1. United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948
… The General Assembly [of the United Nations] … Proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

Article 1
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind …

Article 19
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Article 20
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
2. No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

Article 21
1. Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
2. Everyone has the right to equal access to public service in his country.
3. The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures. …

Article 23
1. Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
2. Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
3. Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
4. Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests. …

Article 29
1. Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.
2. In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, G.A. res. 217A (III), U.N. Doc A/810 at 71 (1948). http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/

2. United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966

Article 1
1. All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.
2. All peoples may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources without prejudice to any obligations arising out of international economic co-operation, based upon the principle of mutual benefit, and international law. In no case
may a people be depri ved of its own means of subsistence.
3. The States Parties to the present Covenant, including those having responsibility for the administration of Non-Self- Governing and Trust Territories, shall promote the realization of the right of self-determination, and shall respect that right, in conformity with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations. …

Article 19
1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:
(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others;
(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals. …

Article 22
1. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
2. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those which are prescribed by law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public
health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. This article shall not prevent the imposition of lawful restrictions on members of the armed forces and of the police in their exercise of this right.
3. Nothing in this article shall authorize States Parties to the International Labour Organisation Convention of 1948 concerning Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize to take legislative measures which would prejudice, or to apply the
law in such a manner as to prejudice, the guarantees provided for in that Convention. …

Article 25
Every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity, without any of the distinctions mentioned in article 2 and without unreasonable restrictions:
(a) To take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives;
(b) To vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of
the will of the electors;
(c) To have access, on general terms of equality, to public service in his country.

United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) http://www.hrweb.org/legal/cpr.html

3. United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), 1989
Adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession by General Assembly resolution 44/25 of 20 November 1989. Entry into force 2 September 1990, in accordance with article 49.

Article 12
1. States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.
2. For this purpose, the child shall in particular be provided the opportunity to be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child, either directly, or through a representative or an appropriate body, in a manner consistent with the procedural rules of national law.

Article 13
1. The child shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the
child‘s choice.
2. The exercise of this right may be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:
(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others; or
(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.

Article 14
1. States Parties shall respect the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
2. States Parties shall respect the rights and duties of the parents and, when applicable, legal guardians, to provide direction to the child in the exercise of his or her right in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child.
3. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health or morals, or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.

Article 15
1. States Parties recognize the rights of the child to freedom of association and to freedom of peaceful assembly.
2. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of these rights other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection
of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989 http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/pdf/crc.pdf

4. African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, 1990

Organization of African Unity (OAU) 1990. Entered into force November 29, 1999. Now falling under the remit of the African Union, which replaced the OAU in 2001.

Article 7: Freedom of Expression
Every child who is capable of communicating his or her own views shall be assured the rights to express his opinions freely in all matters and to disseminate his opinions subject to such restrictions as are prescribed by laws.

Article 8: Freedom of Association
Every child shall have the right to free association and freedom of peaceful assembly in conformity with the law.

Article 9: Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion
1. Every child shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
2. Parents and, where applicable, legal guardians shall have a duty to provide guidance and direction in the exercise of these rights having regard to the evolving capacities, and best interests of the child.
3. States Parties shall respect the duty of parents and where applicable, legal guardians to provide guidance and direction in the enjoyment of these rights subject to the national laws and policies.

Article 31: Responsibility of the Child
Every child shall have responsibilities towards his family and society, the State and other legally recognized communities and the international community. The child, subject to his age and ability, and such limitations as may be contained in the present Charter, shall
have the duty:
(a) to work for the cohesion of the family, to respect his parents, superiors and elders at all times and to assist them in case of need:
(b) to serve his national community by placing his physical and intellectual abilities at its service;
(c) to preserve and strengthen social and national solidarity;
(d) to preserve and strengthen African cultural values in his relations with other members of the society, in the spirit of tolerance, dialogue and consultation and to contribute to
the moral well-being of society;
(e) to preserve and strengthen the independence and the integrity of his country;
(f) to contribute to the best of his abilities, at all times and at all levels, to the promotion and achievement of African Unity.

African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (1990)
http://www.africa-union.org/official_documents/Treaties_%20Conventions_%20Protocols/A.%20C.%20ON%20THE%20RIGHT%20AND%20WELF%20OF%20CHILD.pdf

Saturday, 1 May 2010

John Dewey

"From the standpoint of the child, the great waste in the school comes from his inability to utilize the experiences he gets outside the school in any complete and free way within the school itself; while, on the other hand, he is unable to apply in daily life what he is learning at school. That is the isolation of the school - its isolation from life. When the child gets into the schoolroom he has to put out of his mind a large part of the ideas, interests, and activities that predominate in his home and neighborhood. So the school being unable to utilize this everyday experience, sets painfully to work, on another tack and by a variety of means, to arouse in the child an interest in school studies."

Dewey, J., 1990, The School and Society, Chicago, University of Chicago Press: 75.

John Dewey (October 20, 1859 – June 1, 1952) was an American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer whose ideas have been influential in education and social reform.

John Dewey’s educational theories trusted children far more than many contemporary child participation enthusiasts which can also be seen in 'My pedagogical Creed' which was published in 1897.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Education for Citizenship early years case studies

This website gives concrete examples for working on children's citizenship rights with very young children.

Following is information from the website about working with pre-primary school children on citizenship rights.


Learning about rights

Paisley Children’s Centre is a large, purpose-built family centre providing care and education for children aged from 6 weeks to those not yet attending primary school (76 full-time equivalent places).

The children come from various catchment areas and the nursery is based in central Paisley within Renfrewshire Council. The nursery has extended opening hours (7.30 am to 5.30 pm) to meet the diverse and sometimes challenging needs of the families.

The nursery has a staff team of 24 full-time and part-time staff who strive to provide a warm, supportive and nurturing educational experience for all of their families.

Aims of the project

Responsible active citizens

Staff in the nursery wanted to promote further active citizenship as a way of nursery life. They wanted to involve the children in teaching and learning, through genuine consultation. They also wanted to ensure that young children would recognise that rights are linked to responsibilities, fostering relationships based on mutual respect.

They developed two main initiatives which highlight their commitment to involving very young children in decision making.

· A children’s meeting room has been established where staff work with small groups of children to support them to express their views and be involved in meaningful decision making.

· Children are often involved in the nursery to ‘help’ with the organisation of resources. The children work together to decide which responsibility groups they will volunteer for. This serves to reinforce the importance and value placed on the children’s contribution to life in the centre.

Meeting room

The children’s meeting room was situated intentionally at the entrance to the building, and beside the parents’ room, to include everyone who is directly involved with the children. This provides the opportunity for staff and children to reinforce to families that children’s opinions are valued, sought and acted upon on a regular basis within the nursery.

The entrance to the children’s meeting area is illustrated by symbols based on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Meaningful discussion

The area is used for purposeful and meaningful consultation with the children in areas that directly affect them. Some of these consultations have included:

  • Children’s Rules - which informed the rules for the whole nursery
  • What Makes Us Happy? - which informed the purchase of play resources, in the redevelopment of the literacy area
  • Curriculum Activities - children’s responses were used to plan meaningful activities on the topics of Halloween and Scotland.

Recording discussions

Mind mapping and symbols are used as a tool for discussion and staff find this is a useful technique to encourage all children to participate at their own individual level.

Responsibility groups

Staff worked with the children in small groups to identify and discuss the responsibilities that there were or should be within the nursery. After mind mapping these jobs, the children decided on names for the groups and produced badges for them.

The responsibility groups were:

  • the Peace Patrol
  • the Toy Tidiers
  • the Lunch Bunch
  • the Toilet Monitors.

Role of the adult in discussions

Staff in the nursery had clear guidelines to facilitate the children’s discussions:

  • Give clear guidelines at the beginning of the session - explain to the children what they are entitled to expect, but also what they may give to the group.
  • Discuss what will meet the needs of your service - ensure workable capabilities to ensure success and build on children’s self-esteem.
  • Encourage further thinking - respect children’s choices even when it may be the same group chosen week after week, exploring issues such as real ownership.
  • Promote further active citizenship as a way of nursery life - modelling genuine consultation and participation.

The two initiatives in the nursery have emphasised the central role the children play in learning, teaching and developing skills as responsible citizens. Children have learned that they have a valuable contribution to make to the nursery. They have explored their own values and those of others in a safe, supported environment, and have developed effective communication skills.

Meeting room

Children feel real ownership, having their own designated space for meaningful discussion, which is comfortable and attractive. The room clearly indicates to the whole community that the children's opinions are valued.

Appropriate resources are easily accessible for both children and staff and don’t need to be sought out prior to meetings or activities. Projects can be displayed, and added to for extended periods, effectively building on learning experiences.

Nursery staff ensure that children are aware that these consultations are used to inform improvements and change within the service.

Responsibility groups

The responsibility groups were a fun and appropriate way to engage with and motivate all children to be aware of the role of a responsible citizen.

The children developed relationships with peers and adults, based on mutual respect and responsibility. They had to link and apply different types of learning in new situations, carry out plans and resolve problems, while learning about early leadership roles.

A Curriculum for Excellence planning table

Successful learners

Confident individuals

Responsible citizens

Effective contributors

Carry out plans and resolve problems

Learn independently and as part of a group

Link and apply different types of learning in new situations

Make reasoned evaluations

Create and experience learning

Collaborate and negotiate in groups

Relate to others and manage themselves

Assess risk and take informed decisions

Achieve success in different areas of activity

Participate in goup activities

Develop a sense of fairness in respect of self and others

A form of trustworthiness

Become responsible

Make informed choices and decisions

Be sensitive to the feelings, interests and needs of others

Communicate effectively with others

Engage effectively and safely in a range of situations

Take the initiative and lead

Work in partnerships and teams

Express feelings in words

Parental involvement

Parents were surprised at the level of involvement the children had in the nursery and were encouraged to discuss their work with the children at home. They were very impressed by the responsibility that the children were able to demonstrate in carrying out their nursery jobs.



You will also find information about teaching on citizenship rights with primary and secondary school children.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Beyond Article 12 Essential Readings in children's participation

Beyond Article 12 Essential Readings in children’s participation by Henk van Beers, Brian Milne and Antonella Invernizzi was published in 2006 by Black on White Publications and aims to provide an overview of legal, philosophical, theoretical and practical writing from the broad debate on children's participation.

The book provides excerpts from key works of reference and established writers in three sections:
What does participation mean?
Are children citizens?
Children's participation in practice

Brief introductions to each section and subsection provide a guide through some of the issues that are often taken for granted by specialist writers. Suggestions for further reading are included so that readers can explore their own interests in greater depth.

From the introduction:

“As far as possible, we aimed to present a systematic, non-partisan and holistic view of the topic. By providing basic material on history, theory and practice we want to facilitate an increased understanding of the complex issue of children’s participation, as well as to encourage readers to seek further information. The Readings include legal instruments, philosophy, implementation, practice, experience and the broad debate on what children’s participation should or should not be.”

….

“Some of the most notable gaps occur in theory. There is no holistic approach to children’s participation. History, underlying philosophies and the implementation of legal instruments appear to be disconnected. Indeed one of the most disconcerting aspects of the way the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC, Reading 3) has been used by some devotees of child participation has been a total resistance to think beyond article 12.
Not only are other participation rights infrequently visited by writers and activists but also there is no critique of these oversights. Yet, when the work of pioneers is examined, a broader vision becomes apparent. The ideas of Janusz Korczak (1878/9–1942), the Polish doctor and philosopher who is often credited with beginning modern debates on children’s rights, most certainly harboured a wider range of possibilities. John Dewey’s educational theories (Reading 43) trusted children far more than many contemporary child participation enthusiasts and Ivan Illich’s critique of education (Reading 47) most certainly placed greater trust in the hands and minds of all ages – children included. Perhaps the most illustrative of all is the work of Alexander S. Neill (Reading 48) who foresaw, advocated and practiced intellectual and personal freedoms for children of the kind included much later in the UNCRC. Children give living examples that these principles work.”


Until the costs for printing have been recovered this book is only available in hard copy and can be ordered at Knowing Children. As per April 2010 there were 100 copies left. Price is USD 12.50 including postage and packaging worldwide.

I will publish a few extracts from the publication in future posts.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Participation rights of pre-mature babies

At what age can children participate?
From the moment they are born.
Priscilla Alderson, Joanna Hawthorne and Margaret Killen present a strong case for citizenship rights of babies based on fascinating research in four neonatal intensive care units in Southern England. Their paper aims to show how rights are realistic and relevant to premature babies and, therefore, to all older children too.

"part of being a rights-holder is to have some say in how one’s rights are defined and respected. There is a transfer of some acknowledged expertise and authority to the child. The neonatal examples suggest that babies too can have unique insight into their best interests, and adults need to take account of these if their decisions about care are to be adequately informed and humane."

Participation rights of young children

When it comes to children's participation it is rare to see involvement of children below the age of 8 years. Yet, very young children have the same rights to participation as any other children and they should be equally involved in matters that affect them.
Even a two year old child can be meaningfully involved in decision making. Take the example of a parent who prepares the clothes for her son to wear that day. It may well be that the boy says, 'I don't like this, I want to wear that!' The mother could then look at what the boy would like to wear and decide whether the clothes will suit the weather conditions. When they do, she could say, 'okay, fine, you can wear those clothes instead.' When the weather does not permit to wear the clothes the boy has identified, the mother should explain to her son that the clothes are either too hot/or too thin to wear given the circumstances. She can explain what the implications will be when he would wear the clothes he wants - catching a cold for example. This is a clear and simple example of children's involvement in decision making - in this case with a very young child. It typically happens within the family environment, it is not 'a big thing' but it may well be important for the child's development. The boy has been given an opportunity to be involved in a decision that affects him, he has been given choices, he has received information that will help him understand the implications of his choice. It also shows how the best interest of the child may play a role in such decisions - i.e. the mother's concern about her son's health in his choice of clothes to wear.

Over the years a number of articles have been published that look into young children's participation rights.

An important protagonist has been The Bernard van Leer Foundation who has been publishing Early Childhood Matters for many years.

Early Childhood Matters is a journal about early childhood. It looks at specific issues regarding the development of young children, in particular from a psychosocial perspective. It is published twice per year by the Bernard van Leer Foundation. Some of the issues have specifically focused on young children's participation rights:

Realising the rights of young children: progress and challenges


This issue looks at various aspects of how child rights are being realised. It starts with a look at General Comment 7 on implementing child rights in early childhood. Additional articles include contributions from child-focused organisations in India and Brazil, and discussions about child rights in relation to Roma children, the challenges of implementing child rights in emergency situations, the "forgotten article" regarding the right to play, improving child-friendliness of urban environments, improving the education of key professionals, and the development of indicators.

Young children's participation: Rhetoric or growing reality?


Raises the importance of providing participative environments to children in which they can express themselves readily, knowing they will be listened to. It presents an overview of current thinking at an international level on how young children can effectively play a role in programming and in decisions that affect their lives.

Listening to children

This edition focuses on participation by children of 0-7 years in the conceptualisation, implementation and evaluation of early childhood development programmes. Articles show how adults are taking the crucial steps in developing that participation: establishing environments and practices that enable young children to express themselves confidently and fully, and to develop some experiences in participation.

Effectiveness for children

Among the first publications looking at young children's involvement, this edition reviews ideas and programmes of work that seek the views of children and that value children as contributors to, and participants in, all aspects of early childhood development.

Other Bernard van Leer publications that specifically focus on rights of very young children, including participation rights, are:

A Guide to General Comment 7: Implementing Child Rights in Early Childhood

This book is a guide to implementing child rights in early childhood. It is based around the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child's General Comment no 7. It contains extracts from the papers submitted to the committee at the time of the Day of General Discussion which preceded the General Comment, and other relevant material.

Can you hear me? The right of young children to participate in decisions that affect them. By Gerison Lansdown, May 2005.

This publication makes the case for children’s participation and discusses how it can be put into practice and measured.

Young children's participation: Rhetoric or growing reality?
, November 2004.

This publication raises the importance of providing participative environments to children in which they can express themselves readily, knowing they will be listened to. It presents an overview of current thinking at an international level on how young children can effectively play a role in programming and in decisions that affect their lives.