The right to education

Quenjule Slaven, a very bright student currently in Year 10 at St Mary’s College, this week visited the Office of the Ombudsman also known as the National Human Rights Institution (N.H.R.I.). 

She was eager to hear about what they do and the role they play in the promotion and protection of human rights in Samoa. 

It was also an opportunity for her to shed light with the staff on a project she has planned which really strummed the right heart chords with the Ombudsman Maiava Iulai Toma and his staff.

Ms. Slaven’s project is to provide a support group for our children who are victims of child labour. This support group will volunteer their time to provide basic education such as literacy and mathematics after hours and totally free of charge. 

For Ms. Slaven, all children regardless of their economic and social background have the right to education and to live a life free from fear of violence and discrimination. 

Rather than pointing fingers at who is at fault for these children everyone should work together. 

In her own words “there is a future for which we are accountable and turning a blind eye and ignoring the problem will not vaporize child vendors from Samoa.” 

Like some of us she strongly believes that education is the key to address the ugly issue of poverty. This very term is the root cause of child vendors in this country and if we continue to neglect this issue today our future will struggle and be victims of human rights abuses, child neglect and even worse the cycle of poverty continues.  

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In an ideal world that might be possible but is it realistic to think that in the world in which we live in we can really get everyone to work together? 

Great question which gets us thinking if we don’t work together to give our children the right to education, who will? 

Perhaps this is also a great time of reflection for everyone contesting to be leaders of this country in the upcoming election to ask themselves what they will bring to the table to better the lives of our children who are victims of unfortunate circumstances.  

One exciting part of Ms. Slaven’s visit to the office was hearing her talk about her understanding of the rights of the child. 

She demonstrated that anyone with a conscience easily understands what human rights are particularly the rights of the child and that when a child is taught well to understand these rights it would become clear that rights of the children do not take away the parents role of discipline. 

In fact the Convention on the rights of the child helps create circumstances that encourage their human development and assumes that decisions made by parents would lead to the realization of their full potential. 

Children in turn will contribute to the greater development of families, communities and country.

In most parts of our society the idea that children are only seen and not heard is very common. They are to be told what to do and shall respect what he or she is told without any reservations. 

As a result of these beliefs the idea of right of the child are negatively viewed by some as a way that will dismantle this idea. 

Ms. Slaven at such a young age is urging us all to have a better understanding of the rights of the child and to work together as one nation to create a better environment for our children.

The staff of the Office of the Ombudsman has offered support to Ms. Slaven in her project by rotating staff to assist with the education after hours as well as offering any further assistance she will require as the project develops.   

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