(9) Teach Human Rights

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)


Introducing children’s rights

(a) What are children’s rights?

Ask students whether there are rights and responsibilities that apply more specifically to them, not just as people but as young people – as children. What might it be wrong to do (or not to do) to someone just because he or she happens, at that point in time, to be “a child”?


Introduce the Convention on the Rights of the Child, explaining that it guarantees to children the things they need to grow up healthy, safe and happy and to become good citizens in their community. Help children understand the relationship between needs and rights.



  • Why do you think the United Nations has adopted a document just for children’s human rights?
  • How children’s are needs different from those of adults?
  • Why do children need special protection? Give some examples?
  • Why do children need special provisions for their welfare?
  • What do children need for their survival, happiness and development?
  • Why do children need to participate in their communities?

Give some examples.


Who is responsible for seeing that children’s rights are respected? (e.g. parents? teachers? other adults? other children? the Government?)


(b) Wants and needs


Ask children working in small groups to create ten cards that illustrate things that children need to be happy. They can cut pictures from old magazines or draw these things. Help them label the cards. Each group explains and posts its cards under the heading “Needs”.

Next announce that the new Government has found that it can only provide some of the items on the list, so the group must eliminate ten items from the list of needs.

Remove the cards selected and post them under the heading “Wants”.

Then announce that still further cuts are required and the group must eliminate another ten items and follow the same procedure.


Finally discuss this activity:

  • What items were eliminated first? Why?
  • What is the difference between wants and needs?
  • Do wants and needs differ for different people?
  • What would happen if the class had to go on eliminating needs?


Conclude by explaining that children’s rights are based on what all children need to live a healthy, happy life and grow up to be responsible citizens. Introduce the Convention on the Rights of the Child as an effort to make sure that all children have these rights (see activity “What are children’s rights?” above). Older children might read aloud the summarized version of the Convention and compare it to their list of wants and needs.


(c) What does a child need?


Working in small groups, students draw a large outline of a child (or outline one of them) and give the child a name. They then decide on the mental, physical, spiritual and character qualities they want this ideal child to have as an adult (e.g. good health, sense of humor, kindness) and write these qualities inside the outline. They might also make symbols on or around the child to represent these ideal qualities (e.g. books to represent education). Outside the child, the group lists the human and material resources the child will need to achieve these qualities (e.g. if the child is to be healthy, it will need food and health care). Each group then “introduces” its new member of the community and explains its choices for the child.

Introduce the Convention on the Rights of the Child (see activity “What are children’s rights?” above). Then read aloud the summarized version of the Convention. When children hear an article that guarantees a child each of the needs they have listed, they write the number of the article(s) next to that item. Circle any needs identified by the class but not covered by the Convention.


(d) Promoting children’s rights


In some countries children’s rights are advertised by newspapers, radio and television. Ask students working in small groups to make up some advertisements for particular articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (e.g. posters, skits, songs or other forms). Ask each group to perform or exhibit their ideas for the class as a whole.




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