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Rights are entitlements, valuable commodities which we do not have to grovel or beg to get, according to Freeman (1996, p. 70). When it comes to Children's rights, it has often been perceived as 'a political hot potato', which, rather than advancing children's interests, jeopardise them (Melton, 2005, p. 655). There is further complication when children's educational rights are considered. This really touches raw nerves when adult decisions and actions are put to test in a bid promote the interest of children (Rogers, 2004). Educators and professionals therefore have the responsibility to take the right path in children education and should be guided by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (the Convention) develop programmes to ensure that the principles of the Convention are understood and implemented in order to promote the wellbeing of the child for the good of society.
The paper will attempt to discuss the educational rights of children, conditions and circumstances in the provision of such education, what should be taught and how the student/pupil should be taught. The latter will be discussed with the wrong way of child education making particular reference to the film 'Jesus Camp' which illustrates the education of a group of children characterised by child abuse, brainwashing and indoctrination.
Lindahl (2006) refers to Article 26 of the United Nations' (UN) 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states, "Everyone has the right to education," and most nations are signatories to this declaration. The author stressed that the concept of education as a fundamental legal right is further supported by the UN's 1959 Convention on the Rights of the Child, the seventh principle of which states, "The child is entitled to receive education, which shall be free and compulsory, at least in the elementary stages." Stressing further, the author stated that, Article 13, Clause 2 of the UN's (1966) International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights extends this commitment to education as a fundamental right, including the universal right to a free and compulsory primary education, secondary and technical education available and accessible to all, with a progressive movement toward this being free to all and higher education being accessible to all "on the basis of capacity," with a progressive movement toward being free as well. According to the author, the September 2000 United Nations Millennium Declaration commits all 189 UN member states to achieve the eight Millennium Development Goals by 2015, expand and improve early childhood care and education and ensure that all children have access to a free and compulsory primary education of good quality.
The above therefore make it clear that educational rights of children should not be toyed with and no one has the right to interfere with it. It also challenges governments to provide the necessary conditions for the enjoyment of this right. It is through the appropriate education that the child's welfare, interests and developments could be met in order to be useful in society.
The first consideration is that under what conditions and circumstances education should be provided to satisfy its appropriateness. This relates to the issue of quality education. Yin (2003, cited in Lindahl, 2006) stated the fact that there is no global consensus on the qualities of inputs and processes needed for the right education to be realised. The author however considers the quality of teachers, the physical resources of educational establishments and welfare of students as paramount importance. Considering the quality of teachers, some questions to be asked are whether teachers are duly qualified to provide the right kind of education and upright in dealing with students. If the answers to these are not positive, then the child's right to education is not met. The right kind of buildings, furniture, computers, other teaching aids, classroom-student/pupil ratio and teacher-student/pupil ratio are all considerations linked to the giving of the right kind of education in order to satisfy the educational rights of the child.
The safety of the child is also of paramount importance. As Directgov (on line) puts it, everyone in the education system must do what is sensible to keep pupils safe and healthy. This includes making the school environment as safe as possible. There are several sets of guidelines setting out the good practice that can help schools meet their responsibilities. These also include safety outside classroom when the school embark on extracurricular activities like school trips and taking part in sports and games which form an integral part of the educational system (Directgov).
The most important question to consider is what should be taught and how the student/pupil should be taught in order to provide the right kind of education that allows children to be useful citizens and future leaders and guarantee their welfare and development. In considering this it should be noted that children's formative influences especially are very vital since it acts as the foundation for the child to build on. According to Eekelaar (1986) these are the rights of a child to develop his or her potential so that such a child enters adulthood without disadvantage. Adding, Feinberg (1980) also stated the same scenario that education should send the child out into the adult world with as many open opportunities as possible in order to maximise his or her chances for self-fulfilment. It is therefore a challenge to educators to competently guide the child to achieve the best, teach and train the child in the right way.
Lindhl (2006) discussing the best curricular talked about educating the child in general knowledge, skills and dispositions required by the global economy modified and complemented by local and regional cultures, circumstances, histories, politics and needs. Referring to culture, Woolman (2001, cited in Lindhl, 2006) proposed that schooling must be diversified to reflect every aspect of the culture, social context, values, and differing life contexts such as rural and urban life.
Pigozzi (2004) commented that for the right to education to exist, children must be in environment free from mental and physical violence, must be free to express themselves openly and participate fully and must be given dignity. Their education must be child-centred and appropriate to their developmental levels and linked to their own experiences. Alderson (2000) suggested one way of going about it by stating that when adults routinely listen to children and consult and reflect with them, they help to increase children's competencies, and mutual trust and confidence. The author stressed that giving children a voice is a popular slogan, but if children have voices, it is adults who need to listen. Therefore, anyone hoping to benefit from people of any age tends to do so far more effectively by involving them as parents in their plans as far as possible.
Carr et al (2004) also emphasised the value of children being active participants in their own learning. They argue that including children's voices, and viewing them as social actors with opinions and views of their own, helps to shift the balance of power in favour of the child, and encourages children to be competent and confident learners. Moreover, such an approach orients children to learning goals which involve mastery, persistence and striving towards increasing competence, rather than to performance goals oriented towards gaining favourable judgements and avoiding failure. This Feinberg recognised is a way that should lead the child out into the adult world with a lot more of open opportunities (Feinberg 1980:135).
An important consideration relates to indoctrination as opposed to teaching. Indoctrination is teaching people "to accept a system of thought uncritically and indoctrination can be equated to imposition which violates the rights of the child. Most indoctrination starts informally where most of the child's values, beliefs and norms are passed on to the child by the parents. To an extent a child does not have much say when it comes to certain topics such as daily routine, choice of diet, what to wear, bedtime, freedom and responsibility, cultural differences, chores or in a situation whereby there is a divorce and the child has to be taken to fostering. These could further be shaped by religious and political considerations.
The film, 'Jesus Camp' which is about children who were being trained in a camp; Pentecostal Church's annual summer camp run by Pastor Becky Fisher (Grady,R. &. Ewing, H. 2006) illustrates the points being made. In this film, the children, most of them ages 7 to 13, are being taught to become part of 'Gods Army' which portrays Christian indoctrination, infringing the rights of the children. The film portrayed the fact that children were denied the rights of future choices but are forced to accept the doctrine of the Church without question.
Though the children are being trained in the Christian doctrine, there even seem to be contamination further when it is realised there was no form of worship or any form of preaching of the word of God from the Bible.
Rather, there was a lot of repetition of political and personal pressure. It could be seen that the children were being groomed for the political group's sake as portrayed by their dancing in army style clothes like they are an army of religion. In the film, the fear of the unknown especially the fear of eternal damnation in hell is pressed deeply into the impressionable minds of the children so much so that it becomes a reality to them. When age old myths and superstitions are presented as facts by those you regard as your guardians and authority, you hold on to every word they have to say. Most 'Jesus Camp' viewers who are even Christians do not agree with the extremes the film portrayed. This contradicts the fact that children should have their own opinions and views in order to be competent and confident learners (Carr et al, 2004)
In addition, educating children at a school of evangelism is a typical example of indoctrination as it involves preaching to children about fixing the world without any significance. In this case their spiritual knowledge of knowing God is being the decision made for them by their parents or carers. It is an irony that when there was a question like "does anyone in here believe in God" was asked, a mother who had her child on her lap put her hand up for her. Adults and educators should know that children are unstable in Christianity and they are only undergoing an intense training and disciplining. This might be the reason why Feinberg concluded that it is immoral to say a child has a religion.
Fundamentalist Christianity therefore has elements that are so dangerous to a child's mind so much so that the victim has no idea it is wrong. It renders the individual with no critical faculty, leaves one on a relentless guilt trip and strips you of individuality. Children's educational rights are thus being violated as exemplified in this film and if it is happening in practice anywhere, it should be stopped. Such educators should be banned from pursuing children agenda.
To conclude, the essay discussed the educational rights of children as defined by the UN Convention of the rights of the child. It considered the fact that children rights in general and the right to education in particular is a delicate subject but the powers that be, adults and all concerned have the responsibility to get it right since it is very vital for the development of children who are the future leaders.
Conditions and circumstances under which education should be provided are considered and facilities such as good classrooms, the right inputs and qualified teachers are necessary. Also good teaching methods and curricular is a sine qua non for providing the right education for the child. Indoctrination of the child and the denial of the child's rights infringe on the educational rights. This is illustrated in the film 'Jesus Camp' which portrayed how children were abused and indoctrinated religiously and politically and the lessons in the film is used to support these latter defects of children education.
Children's educational rights are so vital that the providers, who are governments, parents and the society as a whole should do well to put it right in order to guarantee a positive future for the children in particular and the world in general.