In September, I am heading back to University for a Masters in International Human Rights Law. Very much settled on the LLM when I started working with APIE in January, my position here made me somewhat question my choice... My role at APIE sees me involved not only in the running of the UK operations of the charity, but has also given me an incredible platform upon which to view - and contribute to - the work at Umubano Primary School. With experience gained both here and in past positions, my question in committing to my choice was this: Why human rights? Why not international education, or development?
My uncertainty around this stemmed from not being able to clearly see - other than education as a fundamental human right - the intersection of the two subjects, which left me in some doubt when it came to wholeheartedly committing to something that (symbolically at least!) represents a choice affecting the rest of my life. My thinking gained some clarity last month, however, when APIE's CEO Angie and I attended a conference at the Institute of Education at UCL entitled Human Rights: An ethical framework for schooling and Social Justice.
The conference was filled with a multitude of opinions, voices and tones, which though varying, all merged under the umbrella and belief that the study of human rights is central in providing a well-rounded education, equipping students with the skills to develop a strong sense not only of who they are, but where they and their actions fit in the fabric of society. These talks were particularly poignant not only with regard to the current European climate, with undertones of fear, xenophobia and hatred rising in response to the threat of terrorism, political instability and the refugee crisis, but also for the fact that on the morning of the conference, the results of the UK referendum had been announced, leaving many feeling uncertain of what the future will bring.
This poignancy was particularly felt and addressed in Professor Audrey Osler’s talk, the subject matter drawn from her most recent book from which the title of the conference was also taken. Professor Osler offered a hopeful look at a future for Citizenship Education; her focus is the importance of human rights and social justice providing an ‘ethical framework’ for schooling, with the difficulties in implementing this (socio-economic inequality in the student body, amongst other things) dealt with head on in order to provide a more inclusive, and therefore cohesive, school environment.
Without a professional background in education myself, this line of thinking deeply impacted my own understanding of the importance of Peace Education - or as Angie has reimagined it, Education for Peace - at Umubano Primary School. The idea that the threads of knowledge of children’s rights, human rights, conflict resolution and peacefulness can all run through the fabric of education, regardless of subject, is an exciting proposal; if Education for Peace was mandatory, what kind of difference would this have on our collective future?
Spending the day hearing some of the work of these different academics and educators, all of whom were drawing their research and knowledge from different backgrounds, allowed me a glimpse into the intersection between human rights and education in action, and enabled me to see how important it is that they are, and remain, entwined. This is of course exciting in a greater context, but (selfishly) it is exciting for me, as I see how my studies and my job will be able to feed into one another for a greater, wider and more interdisciplinary approach to both.
To find out more about Peace Education at Umubano Primary School, see here. To see more about the ICEDC conference, and to find out some more about Professor Osler’s work, see here.