Children's rights: new teaching material for schools

Four Swiss NGOs are developing educational teaching materials on the topic of a "clean, healthy and sustainable environment" to mark International Children's Rights Day.

To mark International Children's Rights Day on 20 November 2023, the four organizations Pestalozzi Children's Foundation, Integras and the terre des hommes schweiz / Terre des Hommes Suisse alliance are once again presenting free educational tools entitled "Children's rights: do you know them?" for teachers throughout Switzerland. The aim is to promote discussion and awareness of children's rights issues. This year, the focus is on a "clean, healthy and sustainable environment". The documents have been available for free download on the website www.children-rights.ch since October 20, 2023.

"This is a milestone"

The four organizations have chosen an extremely topical subject this year: In August 2023, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child clarified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and explicitly recognized the right of every child to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a child's right for the first time. At a meeting in Geneva in September 2023, binding guidelines were presented that describe the right of the child. These call on states and companies to take more decisive measures to combat climate change and environmental pollution.

"This is a milestone", says Catherine Brunold, specialist for psychosocial support and project manager for tdh éducation at terre des hommes schweiz. "Against the backdrop of climate change and environmental pollution, it is now recognized that every child on earth has the right to live in a clean, healthy and sustainable environment."

In the view of the four organizations, Children's Rights Day is a suitable opportunity to raise pupils' awareness of a specific children's rights issue. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted in 1989, formulates general children's rights. In Switzerland, fundamental rights are enshrined in the Federal Constitution. However, the practical implementation of children's rights and human rights often remains a challenge - even in schools. One reason for this is that children's rights should ideally be taught through personal discussion and practical experience. This teaching material offers the opportunity for such experience-oriented learning.

"Children's rights education means providing a framework in which children and young people can try things out and where they are given space to discuss their own and others' opinions and attitudes and to question attitudes and values. These teaching materials have been developed with this in mind," says Barbara Germann, pedagogue for intercultural exchange projects at the Pestalozzi Children's Village in Trogen.

The theme for each year is determined together with children and young people. It is also important to include the needs and opinions of children and young people in the development process. Schoolchildren are the experts on their life situation, which is why the four organizations believe it is essential to give them a voice and involve them when it comes to children's rights in Switzerland.

Free tools in three national languages

The new teaching materials are made available to teachers free of charge in the three national languages. They invite pupils to engage in a dialog about children's rights in general and the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment in particular. The didactic materials, which consist of three teaching cycles, also relate to the curriculum and are supplemented by inclusive material in simplified language. They offer exercises, for example, so that pupils can place their own behavior in the context of environmental issues and learn about different ways of contributing to a healthy environment.

Lorène Métral, child rights specialist and Head of Latin Switzerland at Integras, explains: "The teaching materials are again very diverse. Depending on which topics are currently on the children's minds, a subject area can be explored in greater depth and developed and implemented in an action plan."

The four-year project is being carried out in collaboration with éducation21 and is supported by the federal government as part of the Child and Youth Promotion Act.

Further Information

Teaching materials: www.children-rights.ch

Information: Catherine Brunold, tdh éducation project manager at terre des hommes switzerland, catherine.brunold@terredeshommes.ch, +41 61 335 91 57

Media contact terre des hommes switzerland: Sheila Glasz  sheila.glasz@terredeshommes.ch, +41 61 338 91 42

About the participating organizations

terre des hommes schweiz is a development policy organization that empowers young people in Africa, Latin America and Switzerland. Together, we are committed to social cohesion, global justice, climate justice and a decent life for all. We work with our local partners and in strategic partnerships and alliances to build a strong civil society. 

Integras Promotes expertise in working with children, adolescents and young adults in out-of-home care and/or with special education by requiring and promoting a high level of ethical and professional quality.

The Pestalozzi Children's Foundation is a Swiss non-profit organization committed to children and young people in Switzerland and in twelve countries worldwide. It supports children and young people in the promotion of specific skills required for peaceful coexistence through education for sustainable development and the opportunity for individual development.

Terre des Hommes Suisse is a non-profit organization that has always been committed to children and solidarity-based development. The aim of Terre des Hommes Suisse is to give children and young people the tools to become agents of change so that they are able to work for respect for their rights and a more sustainable world.

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