Child Rights & Responsibilities Clubs Empowering Children
In July, VMM International Child and Vulnerable Adult Safeguarding and Protection Manager, Lucy Monari, travelled from Nairobi to join Project Assistant, Dalmas Obora, in Kitale, Kenya, to hold a teachers’ workshop with the aim of initiating Child Rights and Responsibility Clubs in schools in the surrounding area. These clubs are a tool that the Safeguarding and Protection Programme uses to instigate practical forums in schools, through which to implement the practices and procedures established by the formal introduction of a Safeguarding policy into each school. They also bolster the Positive Discipline Programme workshops, which aim to replace the use of corporal punishment that can still be relied upon by teachers when controlling classes, of often large sizes.
In many communities, it remains the case that children can often be seen but not heard; expected to be silent, obedient, do as they are told and not to think creatively, expressively and take responsibility for their own decisions. Corporal punishment remains a part of the culture and tradition and parents, even sometimes the pupils themselves, can request that the teacher beat them as the tried and tested method of instilling discipline and achieving academic results. The introduction of Child Rights and Responsibilities Clubs are the means by which to educate not only the teachers, but also the children, on their equal rights as individuals, no matter how small they may be. They have the right to be respected and to voice their opinions on their education and concerns, working with their teachers to inform and direct their education and environment, to be given and take responsibilities for their own situation and futures and to be respected and valued for this, as active participants within their communities and leaders of the future.
Teacher Engagement at Child Rights & Responsibilities Club Workshop
The workshop was held in Saint Martin’s, the Diocesan guesthouse in Kitale, and was well attended by teachers and child safeguarding officers from nine schools in the surrounding area. The workshop was productive and full of engagement from a very motivated group and the discussion continued over lunch. As well as the relationship and academic benefits they note from the use of Positive Discipline measures in the classroom, the teachers were very encouraged by this new medium by which to further bridge the gap between teacher and student and by the learning innovations and team building progress that such a body would effect.
All avowed to begin the process of talking with their principals and other teachers in their school and to address the student body with the intention of establishing a Child Rights and Responsibilities Club in their school. Already, two schools, in Kahuho and Grasslands, have established a Child Rights and Responsibilities Club and we await to see the progress and benefits they make. VMM Project Assistant, Dalmas Obora, continues to visit schools, addressing the students and the teachers about their progress, next steps and monitoring the establishment of these new clubs.
VMM: Spreading Child Safeguarding, Protection and Rights
There can remain some resistance to breaking with tradition regarding corporal punishment – if it was good enough for me, it’s good enough for students nowadays. It didn’t do me any harm. If you do not beat the children, they will become stubborn and not learn. – Such attitudes are well understood by VMM International’s Positive Discipline Programme Coordinator, volunteer Eilís McDonald, who was an ex-school principal and also a student herself when corporal punishment was part of traditional discipline in Ireland, not so long ago. Just as then in Ireland, it is a gradual process to phase out corporal punishment in the cultural mindset.
The VMM International Safeguarding and Protection Programme, along with the Positive Discipline Programme, and mediums such as Child Rights and Responsibilities Clubs are continuing to push this change and empower children and vulnerable adults; and it is working. A number of schools in the area now employ the positive discipline principle, having dropped corporal punishment, and have seen the results in children who no longer run away from school and stop attending, but who now come to school every day, because they love it; love learning in a safe environment and are happy to show their appreciation for this to their teachers, instead of fearing them.