Amnesty’s Human Rights Friendly Schools project is no ordinary learning method, where lessons are taught while children quietly listen. Instead of simply studying them, schools are empowering their students and staff to live and breathe human rights in everyday school life.
Right now, 84,000 students and 5,000 teachers around the globe are transforming their schools into communities where everyone understands, values and protects human rights.
Together, they are creating dynamic and vibrant places to learn and grow: “At the beginning I had no knowledge about human rights or Amnesty International,” said Tim, a former secondary school student from Mongolia.
“With the project, students in my class became extremely involved and concerned about human rights issues in the world. It changed my way of looking at things and showed me how to be loud against human right violations.”
“I think we are generally happier and friendlier with each other,” said Auygarb, a pupil at another Mongolian school. “Students used to be bullied a lot and the teachers didn’t pay much attention. Now our teachers are more concerned about students’ well-being.
“It’s really important for students to have a connection with their teachers,” she added. “Each of us should be able to rely on adults, and not everyone can do that outside of school.”
The project currently runs in three schools in Mongolia, and will expand to another eight in 2014. Worldwide, it has grown to include 92 schools in 20 countries in just five years. Its success is probably due to its simplicity and ability to adapt to different local contexts.
Because each school is unique, each school develops its own human rights friendly action plan, tailored to its specific needs and goals. Amnesty staff can also offer support and mentoring for how to best integrate human rights into all areas of school life.
Based around the core values of equality, dignity, respect, non-discrimination, inclusion and participation, schools aim to improve four areas of school life: how the school is run; how people interact with each other; how to create opportunities for learning about human rights; and how to physically transform the school into a human rights friendly place.
The project has empowered young people to develop their leadership skills. Many have also joined Amnesty’s campaigns, including our global Write for Rights letter-writing event in December.
Teachers are inspired too: “My teaching methodology has completely changed,” said Gantigmaa, an English teacher in Mongolia. “I used to only focus on grammar and textbook exercises. Now I try to link social issues to my classes, and focus more on life experiences in my teaching.”