Reflections on CRC Article 29

Children’s education should help them fully develop their personalities, talents and abilities. It should teach them to understand their own rights, and to respect other people’s rights, cultures and differences. It should help them to live peacefully.

Laksmi Pamuntjak
Girls take part in an anti-bullying programme at school in Sulawesi, Indonesia
01 November 2019

All our lives, we have heard what education means to other people. Yeats, echoing Socrates: “Education is not the filling of a pail, it is the lighting of a fire.” The anthropologist Margaret Mead: “Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.” An education specialist I spoke to, just the other day: “Education should be aimed at fostering children who are critical, possess self-knowledge, want to contribute to society, and know how to interact with their peers and adapt to different life challenges.”

We have come to see education, variously, as one or multiple things: a right, a need, a responsibility, a challenge, a luxury, a dream. The yardsticks change according to the phase of life we are in.

At any rate, the embrace of education makes us aspire to greater heights. When we were young, we were told to study hard, pass exams, get a degree, aim high, ‘give something back.’ Later, we might find ourselves telling young people those very things, as a teacher, a scholar, or an education activist. At every juncture of our lives, we empower ourselves to think, question, make decisions and educate our own judgments.

We train ourselves to listen, to appreciate diversity, to open our eyes to the world and different ways of seeing. We develop a skill or a set of skills, become good at what we do, so that we can contribute positively to society and increase our self-esteem. We teach ourselves to think and behave rationally, solve problems, and avoid illusions in life. We educate ourselves in empathy, kindness and mutual respect not just because they are valuable impulses that help humans survive in society, but also because they are essential to happiness.

Ultimately, we want to be happy adults who raise happy children. Children who know that while knowledge is power, it is worth more when coupled with humility.

Though these reflections were inspired by the accompanying photographs, the texts do not describe the life or story of any person depicted within them.


Convention on the rights of the child

In 1989, governments across the world promised all children the same rights by adopting the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The Convention says what countries must do so that all children grow as healthy as possible, can learn at school, are protected, have their views listened to, and are treated fairly.

As part of Indonesia’s celebrations in November 2019, to mark the 30th anniversary of the CRC, UNICEF asked Indonesian author Laksmi Pamuntjak to help us envision some of these CRC articles. Inspired by photos and images from our database, and working with our programme specialists, Laksmi created 15 fictional texts on some of the most relevant articles for the Indonesian context.

Though these reflections were inspired by the accompanying photographs, the texts do not describe the life or story of any person depicted within them.