2021-11-20 GENERAL HOUSE

20 November: International Day of the Rights of the Child

Human right groups have been reporting that millions of children in the world, especially girls, do not enjoy their rights. In the less developed regions of the world, their education is still perceived as having less value than that of boys. This condition shatters their dreams of a better future. Given that children face discrimination and marginalization everywhere on earth, the United Nations’ (UN) General Assembly (GA), on December 14, 1954, instituted the International Day of the Rights of the Child (World Children’s Day) and adopted its Declaration in 1959 and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1989 to promote children’s welfare and rights. November 20th commemorates the date of the adoption of both the Declaration and the Convention. The fifty-four (54) articles of the CRC set out the rights of children and how governments are expected to promote them.

Some children who attend schools, institutions, and ministries in developing countries come from homes where they are looked after either by single parents, or relatives. Their families are poor and have no access to healthy food, good medical care, and school requirements. They experience marginalization and exclusion from the mainstream school activities if their disadvantaged and underprivileged condition is not considered. Champagnat’s sensitivity and attention to the needs of the poor and marginalized children pushed him to fight vigorously against any circumstances which hindered them from fully enjoying their rights. He often cautioned the Brothers against negligence and urged them ‘to be guardian angels to the children’by constantly being on their guard, vigilant and attentive to their needs.

World Children’s Day offers us, Marists of Champagnat, an opportunity to reflect on child rights advocacy, put children’s concerns at the fore and highlight their dignity while making sure that our school environments are safe and in good conditions for them. As we do this, let the views of Father Champagnat on the education of children be the bedrock of our inspirations and actions. At the foundation of the Marist Institute, he had in mind ‘something better’ than teaching children secular subjects or catechism. He wanted the Brothers to make children good Christians and good citizens. As Marist educators, therefore, we should be pro-active in ensuring that the rights of children are respected and make sure that they feel safe in our environment and enjoy their rights to education free of discrimination and marginalization. We can determine their success by supporting all of them irrespective of their socio-economic background if we simply act in their best interest. We can eliminate practices associated with deficit thinking, blaming students’ families, socio-economic or cultural background for their poor performance, within our schools and create conditions which allow all groups of students to succeed in their learning by simply providing the enabling learning environment that they need for their education.

This year’s World Children’s Day is taking place when life is gradually coming back to normal as covid cases and deaths drop. One of the lessons we are taking from the pandemic is that, as humans, we are fragile and helpless and that to survive, we must be mindful of our environment and one another. Hopefully, this lesson will inspire us as we continue to advocate for the rights of children and protect them from harm.


Brother Francis Lukong – Secretariat of Solidarity


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