Children’s rights in school life

Asking children their opinions, taking their rights seriously – that is what some 200 Unicef Rights Respecting Schools in Germany stand for.

School is fun: Children raising their hands
School is fun: Children raising their hands picture alliance / Hans Lucas

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is regarded as “the basic law” in the work of the United Nations Children’s Fund Unicef. The United Nations passed the convention in 1989, and it came into force in Germany in 1992.These rights are also being filled with life in Germany, at so-called  Rights Respecting Schools. Here we explain how they are changing everyday life at school.

“A whole school approach“

This is the approach taken by the Rights Respecting Schools supported by Unicef. The United Nations Children’s Fund offers schools wishing to participate different levels of training on various topics surrounding the rights of the child. After about a year the school can receive the official seal of approval as a Rights Respecting School. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is also associated with the task of “raising awareness about the rights of the child”, says Unicef press representative Simone Morawitz. “Many children aren’t even aware of their rights. And school is the best place to learn about them and then stand up for them.”

Almost 200 Rights Respecting Schools in Germany

The Unicef Rights Respecting Schools programme has existed in its current form in Germany since 2015, at the moment in North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony. About 190 schools are involved at present, mostly primary schools. “Our goal is to include all federal states by 2030,” says Ms Morawitz. At the international level, 15 national Unicef committees are taking part in the Rights Respecting Schools model. This means that it reached around 1.7 million children in more than 6,000 schools in 2020.

Children participating in school decisions

“We are especially interested in children participating in school life,” says Unicef expert Simone Morawitz. “They need to be consulted and to be taken seriously.” This means that they learn such things as “every opinion is equally important”. And she added that children automatically assume greater responsibility when they are consulted.

Within the programme framework the participating schools have access to a learning platform on the topic of children’s rights, but they also receive special support from Unicef training staff. Participation can lead to such things as “the founding of a class committee or a school students’ parliament, so that children can really have their say in decisions concerning the school,” says Ms Morawitz. This also helps the children to practice “how they can address problems, or how they can carry on a discussion without offending others.”

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