Children's rights project to be launched in Czech schools


By Daniela Lazarova Until recently children's rights were not an issue at the forefront of media or public attention in the Czech Republic. Most people simply assumed that children's rights are well protected in a country where children do not lack basic material requirements and where parents generally tend to spoil their offspring. But in recent years, there has been an increasing awareness of problems such as physical and emotional child abuse and bullying at schools. Mrs Jarmila Knight of the "Our Child" foundation explains:

"We have found that although we are not a third world country -and basic children's rights such as the right to clean water and food - are not violated, there are still certain rights that are not being fulfilled, areas where children are lacking....I'm talking about cases of emotional and physical abuse, violence in the family, not enough protection from alcoholism in the family etc. In this country the available prevention methods are not yet widely recognized and used. "

So, hard on the heels of a bill-board campaign which aimed to draw attention to the fact that emotional deprivation is also a form of child abuse, comes a project which is unprecedented in the Czech Republic in that it directly addresses those concerned. Although it is still up to the adults to protect children's rights, experts think that children need to be clearly told what their rights are at an early age.

The "Our Child" foundation is now coordinating a nationwide school project to be financed through the EU's democracy programme. The two year project will involve producing a picture textbook of children's rights for children aged six to 12 and something more suitable for secondary school students. Mrs. Jarmila Knight says that the foundation is counting on a lot of support from teachers and parents.

"This is exactly what the whole project is about. Not just preparing a publication, distributing it and getting children to read it in order to find out what their rights are. Obviously a picture in itself is not going to tell you much and a caption under it -stating a certain right - is not terribly informative. So the whole project is based on seminars -on teaching teachers how to explain these rights to young children, on teaching parents how to understand children's rights and on explaining these things to the general public. Also, we feel that there should be more education in schools on what I would call basic democratic principles - equality, tolerance, ethics....things that are a part of normal everyday life in a democratic society...and this learning process should be started as soon as children start school -that is when they are six or seven."

Mrs. Jarmila Knight of the "Our Child" foundation speaking about a nation-wide project to highlight children's rights.