Olnafirth Primary School in Voe has become the first primary in Shetland to be a “Rights Respecting School”.
Today pupils received a certificate from SIC chief executive Mark Boden to celebrate this.
To achieve their status pupils have studied the rights of children across the world, as defined by the United Nations. This encourages students of all ages to become “global citizens”, and to value rights they enjoy in the UK – such as to clean air, water and education – which are often lacking in other parts of the world.
Mr Boden congratulated the pupils on their “prestigious” award, which he was honoured to present. He had never met anyone with a UN award, he said – this was “very special”, and he encouraged the pupils to pay attention to the aims of the UN.
Head teacher Pat Brown said the award was the culmination of two years’ work which involved a group of four children, plus a parent and staff member, looking at articles in the UN children’s rights charter. The rights including the rights to dignity, liberty, security, confidentiality and individuality, largely taken for granted, were expressed in a song performed by all the school’s 13 pupils.
Mrs Brown said that rights bring responsibilities, and pupils were encouraged to contrast what they have with what is available in other countries. Cards itemising things “I want” and “I need” on the school walls should have read “I have” and “I take for granted”, she said.
Pupils became aware that in some countries girls do not have education, and in Africa some children walk miles to school where teachers might be responsible for 100 pupils.
Mrs Brown said: “Pupils can’t help but be global citizens when they become aware that not every child has these [rights that we enjoy]. It’s our responsibility to help.” To this end pupils have raised funds for sporting opportunities for Malawi.
Mr Boden said he was “very impressed” by the pupils’ knowledge – he had studied the same topics in the third year of a law degree – and hoped the work would help people around the world to enjoy their rights.
He pointed out there is still work to do in this country as slavery still exists in the form of human trafficking.