Fight for freedom

20th November 1998 at 00:00
STAND UP FOR YOUR RIGHTS.

Written, illustrated and edited by young people of the world.

Two-Can Pounds 7.99.

It is 50 years this month since the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. How, in a world increasingly shadowed by human rights abuses, should schools and pupils be responding? The charity Peace Child International had the bright idea of asking schools and pupils themselves, worldwide. Stand Up for Your Rights is the impressive and colourful result. Half the world's governments, its young editors remind us, still imprison on grounds of conscience. Half of them still routinely use torture. Across half of the world, children still live in hunger, ignorance and fear. In the letters, paintings and poems that form these hundred pages, these familiar abstractions take on sharp and often painful meaning.

The best thing about this attractive volume, half anthology and half recipe for action, is its directness. The 30 articles of the original declaration are re-phrased in terms of their impact on individual children,with a welcome recognition that "rights" are always problematic. Where better to start learning this lesson, the editors say, than in schools?

The weakness, if one exists, is an understandable reluctance to name the villains - not least the western affluence characterised here, un-glossaried, as corporate greed. There is a powerful message, though, about child labour ("When you go shopping don't leave your brains at home") and an excellent reference section on how to find out more, how to help, and (emphatically) what to do. Learning citizenship at key stage 3 and 4 surely includes learning to defend your rights and those of other people. This is a timely, accessible and often moving addition to the available resources.

Peace Child International is at www.oneworld.orgpeacechild

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