|© UNICEF video|
|In the kindergarten attached to Ban Pho Primary School – located in Bac Ha district, Lao Cai Province, Viet Nam – ethnic minority children learn about their rights in special classes taught in the local Hmong dialect.|
By Rob McBride
In the run-up to the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child – a landmark international agreement on the basic human rights of all children – UNICEF is featuring a series of stories about progress made and challenges that remain. Here is one of those stories.
LAO CAI, Viet Nam, 23 July 2009 – Against the dramatic backdrop of the foothills of northern Viet Nam, students at the Kim Dong Lower Secondary gather for their morning exercises. In perfectly straight lines, and with impeccable timing, they go through their routine, which heralds the start of the school day.
All born well after the signing of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1989, these teenagers are nonetheless living proof of how the Convention has benefited children worldwide, reaching even the most remote areas. What’s more, the Kim Dong students can demonstrate with ease their own knowledge of children’s rights and how to exercise them.
Right to education
In a poster-painting class, Do Thuy Huong, 15, leads her group in depicting a playground scene.
“The meaning of our drawing is that regardless of gender or family background, we all have the right to go to school,” she said, taking a break from her work. Classes such as this one are just one of the means by which pupils here learn about their rights.
Fellow student Luong Quoc Viet, 14, believes there are no better advocates for child rights than children themselves. "If children know about their rights, they will be able to express their wishes properly with the adults," he said.
Raising community awareness
Lao Cai is one of several provinces in Viet Nam where UNICEF is working with its local partners to help children – especially those from ethnic minority groups – stay in school and complete their education.
At the nearby Ban Pho Primary School, special classes teaching children about their rights also form part of the curriculum. Principal Pham Auh Tuan believes that educating the students helps to inform their families, as well.
"Through the education of the students," he explained, "we aim to raise the awareness of the whole community."
Never too early to start
In the kindergarten attached to the Ban Pho school, teacher Ly Mui Xuan gives lessons in the local Hmong dialect – an approach that UNICEF and its partners are supporting to help improve enrolment rates among ethnic minority children.
|© UNICEF video|
|Lu Thi Dung dances with other students at morning assembly at Ban Pho Primary School.|
The teacher knows it is never too early to start educating her pupils about their rights. "When children know they have the right to go to school, they tell their parents to bring them," she said.
A former student from this pre-school, Lu Thi Dung, 10, is now attending the local primary school. She is already well grounded in her rights. Returning home at the end of another day of learning and play, she proudly announced: "As well as education, I know I have a right to play and a right to sing and dance."
She and her peers have learned enough about the CRC to understand what it means to enjoy the right to a safe and secure childhood.
CRC @ 20