By Cathryn Berger Kaye, M.A., author of The Complete Guide to Service Learning
Human Rights Day on December 10 calls us to pay attention to conditions and concerns facing children and their families around the world. In particular this year, consider the right to a free education.
How marvelous that in the United States we can take this for granted. Of course you know this right is lacking in parts of the world. Across Africa, children can attend primary school for free if they can afford uniforms and school supplies, which eliminates children who are eager to learn yet lack these necessities. In other parts of the globe, girls are refused an education.
Perhaps you know of Malala Yousafzai, the brave Pakistani teenager who stood up for the right for girls to be educated. Now a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, she has emerged as a global leader, a young woman whose voice could not be silenced. On this Human Rights Day, we can join Malala and others who are saying we must stand together to protect our children and honor their desire to learn.
Take this occasion to become informed with your class as a teacher or with your family. Regarding Malala, there are videos accessible on the Internet and a book she authored, I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban.
Another excellent book is Deborah Ellis’s young adult novel My Name Is Parvana, the story of a girl whose mother opens a school for girls in Afghanistan. This book joins Malala’s to reveal the imperative for an education for all children and illustrates the tremendous challenges in some locales.
Other children are denied an education when they are enslaved and forced to be soldiers. The nonfiction books Iqbal by Francesco D’Adamo (for ages 8–12) and The Carpet Boy’s Gift by Pegi Deitz Shea (a picture book) describe children forced to work in rug factories in Pakistan. Both books honor a courageous boy, Iqbal, who lost his life in the cause of freeing the children. If you can find a copy, you will be astonished by We Need to Go to School: Voices from the Rugmark Children, authored by 16-year-old Tanya Roberts-Davis, who traveled to Nepal to meet children freed from lives of slavery in carpet factories. What an amazing book! And War Brothers by Sharon McKay is a powerful graphic novel about boys in Uganda forced to be child soldiers.
The United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative offers information and links to numerous organizations that serve as portals for getting involved and taking action.
How can students get involved? The process of service learning functions as a road map. As students investigate the issue, they raise questions that lead to preparation. They may discover partners already active in the cause who can provide inspiration and guidance. Next, students design a plan of action. They may decide to educate their community or to engage with political leaders. They may work to provide needed resources. Through continual reflection, students consider how they are changed as they change and influence those around them. Demonstration is the stage where students give voice to what they learned and how they made a contribution.
These five stages of service learning assist young people in becoming the leaders we need, who will shape a more just world for all, including those currently inhibited from the right to education.
Have you discussed the right to an education with your students? What resources do you share about educational rights in other countries?
Cathryn Berger Kaye, M.A., is the author of several Free Spirit Publishing titles including The Complete Guide to Service Learning and two books coauthored with environmental advocate Philippe Cousteau: Going Blue: A Teen Guide to Saving Our Oceans, Lakes, Rivers & Wetlands and Make a Splash! A Kid’s Guide to Protecting Our Oceans, Lakes, Rivers & Wetlands. Visit Cathryn on her website for more articles and blogs and to see her global calendar for where she is presenting.
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