The United Nations (UN) System in Namibia, namely the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Windhoek, UNICEF and the Office of the Resident Coordinator (RCO) taught Windhoek International School’s grade five learners about children’s rights and the Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) on 6 September 2016.
Following introductions by each learner, Ms. Kiki Gbeho, the UN Resident Coordinator (UNRC) to Namibia opened up the programme by providing a brief background on the UN. Asking the learners about the UN and why it as formed, the learners could barely remain in their seats as they wanted to answer all the questions and share their knowledge.
After hearing the learners’ answers, Ms. Gbeho explained that following World War II, the world needed an organization that facilitated peaceful relationships and encouraged countries to discuss problems rather than fighting about them. Thus, the UN was established to not only maintain international peace and security but to also promote human rights and solve problems including poverty and hunger, among other issues.
She further explained that human rights are for all people, including children. Specifically, these rights are called children’s rights. Asking the learners which agency works with children and protects these rights, one learner answered that UNICEF is one of the agencies that works with children.
With over 32 agencies and programmes, Ms. Gbeho explained that the UN does a lot of different work. She mentioned that the World Health Organization deals with health and that World Food Programme (WFP) ensures that all people have access to food, regardless of where they live or their socio-economic status.
Diving into issues that challenge children’s rights, Ms. Gbeho informed the learners that if there were a hundred girls, eleven of them would be subjected to marriage before the age of fifteen, taking away their childhood. Consequently, because children are young and sometimes defenceless, they cannot protect themselves from the harms of the world. Therefore, the older generation, including teachers and government officials, have an obligation to protect and promote children’s rights.
When children’s rights are protected, confident and educated young people, that have the potential to solve the problems of the world, can prosper. For this reason, Ms. Gbeho said that children need to be empowered and educated to eventually grow up and make a difference in their careers. Continuing, she emphasised that young people need be prepared in order to share their ideas. This is because it does not help if one’s idea is locked away in one’s head.
One learner raised his hand and said that he had an idea. He proposed that the Government makes things cheaper so that all Namibians can pay for what they need and so that people are not poor. Ms. Gbeho nodded in agreement with the learner, saying that his idea was a great one and that His Excellency Dr. Hage Geingob also had a similar idea and is aiming to eradicate poverty in a similar manner through the Harambee Prosperity Plan. Other learners also shared their bright ideas and solutions to problems that Namibia faces.
After the conclusion of Ms. Gbeho’s speech, Ms. Anthea Basson, the National Information Officer to Namibia, gave a fun and informative presentation about the learners’ specific rights and responsibilities. Beginning by elaborating on the difference between rights and responsibilities, Ms. Basson explained that a right is moral or legal entitlement to have or to do something, whereas a responsibility is having the duty to do something and/or to take care of something.
Expanding on rights, Ms. Basson spoke about the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which came into effect on 2nd September 1990. The children excitedly exclaimed that this was the same year that Namibia obtained its Independence from the Republic of South Africa.
Then, Ms. Basson described the rights that are outlined in over 50 articles of the UNCRC. She mentioned the right to equality, the right to practice religion and be in groups, the right to information and education, the right to well-being and the right to protection, to name a few.
The Namibian Government also works to ensure children’s rights are protected. Ms. Basson explained that Namibia’s Constitution, which commits the country to a rights-based framework for its citizens, establishes a broad framework of rights in Chapter 3; Article 15 defines rights of children and Article 14 defines the rights of the family as the fundamental unit of society.
The Government works closely with the United Nations to also achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which aim to create a sustainable world and ensure that human rights are protected. Goal 4, for example promotes that every child has the right to quality education.
Saying that she stands for children’s rights, Ms. Basson asked the learners what they stood for, and they responded saying ‘children’s rights’, ‘life’ and ‘peace’. The excited learners then took a group photo to commemorate the programme and gave the UN System a thank you card for welcoming them to the UN House. The students are ready to share what they learned about children’s rights with their friends and family.