Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Are our children and young people’s rights protected?


Our children become vulnerable when we do not listen to what they have to say. But how should we listen? And should we always give them what they ask for?

Children and young people live, learn and grow as part of families and communities. Children who learn to express themselves in a positive way, and who know their views will be considered, grow into confident adults capable of contributing in a positive way to their community. Giving our children a right to voice their opinions and concerns will assist in building a future in which all of us are more likely to enjoy our right to freedom of expression. Their voice is about action, so we must make sure that success and achievements are visible to our children and young people and the community.

Research carried out by the Children’s Commissioner in the UK has shown that giving children a voice in school has the following positive effects:

  • Learning becomes more challenging, flexible and fun
  • Improvements to teaching and learning
  • Improved behaviour; reducing number of suspensions
  • Both teachers and students report improved relationships for all
  • Reduced vandalism
  • Reducing rate of children refusing school, employment or training
  • Improved attainment
  • Better school policies which the students have a stake in and respect

Our children and young people are being given a voice through legislation, New Horizons, The Youth Parliament and the School Student Councils.

Protection of the rights of children and young people on St Helena is specifically provided for under the Constitution and the Welfare of Children’s Ordinance which was written to enshrine the principle of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and protects our children’s rights very comprehensively indeed. One of the very positive and important things it does is give a legal right for children and young people to be consulted about matters that affect them, “considered in the light of his age and understanding”.

Our children become vulnerable when we do not listen. What we, as adults, must do is listen to what they have to say with an open mind, and respect their points of view. We must let them have an impact in the areas that affect them.

And, without judgement, we must explain why sometimes we cannot do what they want. That is part of understanding each other’s human rights too.

If we give our children the confidence to speak and the confidence they will be listened to we will have effective leaders in the future.