Thursday, 22 December 2011

PROJECT: Children's Rights Education for Parent Associations: some ideas and lessons learned

In Flanders (Belgium), schools' parent associations are fairly well structured. Three umbrella organizations offer their member parent associations practical support and training, so that they actively promote quality education and strive for a healthy and safe neighborhood.

As a center of expertise on human rights education, with a particular focus on children's rights education, Vormen has developed a training session for parent associations at the primary school level, whose members want to learn about children's rights at home.

We discovered that - after a short, fun ice-breaker, preferably acknowledging names - simply asking participants to make a drawing of what they enjoy the most doing as a family, works perfectly as an introductory activity. After categorizing the finished drawings and setting up an exhibition, it is really easy and natural to explain the link to specific children's rights (eg. the right not to be separated from their parents, the right to play (together at the playground), the right to food (sitting at the dinner table),...). Children's rights illustrations can be integrated in the exhibition, while clarifying the rights' contents and relevance to the family, and asking if participants can come up with other children's rights. It is easily followed by an explanation of the concept (and perhaps some historical background) of children's rights. In our experience, this activity sets the right mood, introduces participants to children's rights as a concept and their holistic nature, and convinces them of the relevance and importance of children's rights to daily life (more in particular family relations).

Another effective activity - especially for participants who enjoy having discussions - is the sticker version of the classical "statement game". A couple of statements are printed out as posters, with 3 or 4 possible options each (the last option being "I have another solution"), and stuck to various walls. Participants are asked to individually read each statement and indicate what they think about the proposed options. They can do this by glueing a green sticker ("This option is the best"), a red sticker ("I would never do this"), or a small post-it note with their own solution on each statement poster. The clear, visual result proved to be a big help to the following group discussion regarding the statements. Statements we've tested included situations such as a child nagging to get fancy stuff like their classmates, and your child's teacher thinking your child is underperforming so that you should be more involved with her/his homework. We found that statements give the most inspired discussions when they touch upon the division of tasks between school, parents and children themselves.

For parent associations that are interested in organizing children's rights activities at their schools, several follow-up activities can be added. Ending a training session with a brainstorm (in small groups) on possible activities, and thereby sending everybody home with concrete ideas for action, is also very much appreciated by this particular target group.

For more information, please contact Fiona Ang, vormen vzw (Belgium).