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Take part, become global citizens

The campaign to aid education in Afghanistan can teach children of all abilities valuable lessons about human rights, says Ted Wragg

Children in Afghanistan have been robbed of their fundamental human right to education. Almost all the girls and half the boys had no education for six years until schools reopened in March this year. Even now, lack of cash and resources is holding back plans to implement universal education.

If our pupils are to be true global citizens they need to understand what is meant by the term "human rights". A general discussion of the basic concepts is an important part of any school's citizenship programme, and is also a useful precursor to the notion of "active citizenship", that is, what part citizens can and should play in securing, enjoying and protecting fundamental rights for themselves and others.

A fruitful starting point is to invite suggestions about what members of a civilised society are entitled to expect - a job? A home? Car? Partner? Care when young, ill or old? Protection from crime? TV set?

What can be called a "right" or "entitlement", and what is more an aspiration or an interesting possibility? Who should provide or guarantee these rights and aspirations - society, or we ourselves by our own individual and collective efforts? And where does education fit into this jigsaw puzzle?

The next step is to ask for examples in recent and earlier history of people fighting for or peacefully securing their human rights. Some came from bloody wars and revolutions, others from protracted negotiations or passive resistance. Where do historic examples fit in, such as the Magna Carta, the French Revolution, votes for women, Martin Luther King's 1963 march on Washington with 200,000 people to demand equal rights for black people?

What do children know about the rights that are enshrined in the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights? These cover the rights to life, liberty, education and equality before the law, as well as freedom of movement, religion, association, information and to have a nationality.

But what does each of these mean in practice? Can we travel anywhere? (You might need a visa.) Does everyone get education? (The children in Afghanistan didn't.) Is it possible not to have a nationality at all? (Eg some refugees or "stateless" people).

Finally, rights do not always come free. Consider which rights need money and resources. How can we raise money for The TES-UNICEF Children Helping Children campaign, so our fellow young citizens in Afghanistan can be provided with teachers, books, equipment, buildings?

Even a small amount of money would enable UNICEF to supply these vital components of a basic human right, so how can we become truly active global citizens and actually achieve something?

For more teaching ideas and suggestions for fundraising activities for the appeal, visit

If you don't have access to the web, ask for copies of the ideas from UNICEF Tel: 0870 606 3377We want to publicise what schools are doing to help, so please let us know what you are doing. Ideas from children or teachers can be sent to Ted Wragg, Children Helping Children, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX. Email: Fax: 0207 7782 3205

Ted Wragg is professor of education at Exeter University

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