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Children’s rights as part of the formation programme at MIC

18/01/2013: Kenya

The FMSI child rights course for the religious attending the Marist International Centre (MIC) of Nairobi, Kenya, was carried out from 11th to 19th December 2012.The course was included as a module in the general formation programme offered by the MIC to its students, future formators and teachers who will be working with children and young people in need in various countries of Africa. We are pleased to publish the reflections that the course inspired in one of the participants, Br. Joseph, fms, relating to his professional role in the specific African context.

Like last year, a course in children's rights was offered to the student-brothers of second year. However, one cannot deny that the nine days workshop on the interests and dignity of children this year was unique with regard to previous years. A team composed of three people: Br Jim Jolley, FMSI Director of Advocacy and Training for Child Rights, Br Geraldo Medida andBr Maurice Juvence (staff members at MIC), ensured that our workshop was successful. More importantly, a Marist sister and two Franciscan sisters joined us for this important exercise that invited all 26 participants to see the world with the eyes of young people. A call to change ourselves and respect the dignity of young people sums up the entire focus of this 9-day training program.

However, it is frustrating to realise that corporal punishment is administered in many countries in Africa, even though State leaders have signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child which strictly prohibits any act of violence against children. Furthermore, whilst the Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most ratified treaty in the world, in reality respecting the dignity of young people remains a challenge. History shows us that the most popular icons of peace like Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Eglantyne Jebb, and many others had children's rights and interests at heart. The challenging question is: “Who is to implement these children's rights agreed to by world nations? Or are we not the agents of implementation of children's rights today?”

We performed a role play that helped us realise how difficult and challenging it is to change the mentality and perception of teachers towards corporal punishment in schools. Here, everyone was challenged that corporal punishment at all levels is not permitted because it contravenes the respect for human dignity given to every person by God.

Finally, a challenge is that whilst several countries in Africa have abolished corporal punishment through state legislation, the reality is that in practice many teachers in schools still carry weapons in their hands when going to classes as part of their teaching aids! However, are not these people the very ones who bear the responsibility of carrying the message of the UN on children's rights in our schools? We Brothers here at MIC are the future teachers in our Marist schools - so if change does not start with us, who will it start with? If we don't change now, when?

Many thanks to the Formation Team of MIC for reading the signs of the times where children's rights and interests are at stake in this changing world, and thus providing this training course for us.

_____________
Br. Joseph
December 26, 2012

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