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Primary Education News
News Young human rights reporter of the year 2013 - primary category
Girls' education improves the nation
Competition supported by the Guardian Teacher Network
Winner of Amnesty International's Young human rights reporter of the year competition primary category: Liliana Newsam-Smith, 11, Rhodes Avenue primary school, London
Girls' education improves the nation
I work in the field collecting the crop. It's early afternoon and the blazing sun is high in the sky. I should be at school right now. My name is Rarni, and where I live girls don't get the chance to go to school. Boys do. My older brother goes to school and learns how to read and write, while I work hard in the field all day.
I wish I could go to school and learn new things every day, learn new skills, learn about the world around me. I wish I could go to school and share my opinions and views and have everyone listen. But most of all, I wish I could go to school so that I have a chance to have a career, a future. Equality? What does this word really mean? It means freedom, it means everyone having the same basic human rights.
I believe every child has the right to an education, no matter what colour your skin is, no matter if you are a boy or girl, no matter where you are born. Malala Yousafzai believes this too. Malala is an incredibly brave 15-year-old girl who fought for the right of girls' education in Pakistan. Only 26% of girls in Pakistan are literate, able to read and write. From the age of 11, Malala started speaking publicly in the media about the need for girls' education. She was given an honour for her pure bravery. Sadly somebody thought that her sense of equality was wrong.
Last October, on her way home from school with her friends, Malala was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman. She was flown over to England to have an operation on her skull.
Fortunately Malala survived the gunshot without any brain damage, but who's to say what will happen to others who dare to fight for their educational rights? Can you imagine having your life threatened or being severely hurt for standing up for a basic human right or just expressing your opinion about your own life? Sadly, equality is not always a reality in the world we live in. At least one in five adolescent girls around the world is denied an education because of poverty or discrimination; does it seem fair or right to you that girls don't have the same opportunities or choices that boys do?
Every day, girls are taken out of school and forced into work or married off early. Statistics show that an education for girls can be totally life-changing. Educated women at work invest more into their families and their community, they have less children and those children are healthier and their standard of living is higher. They contribute more to their society which creates a happier society all round. Let's stand up for girls everywhere. We have to help girls fulfil their potential. They must have the right to an education: a better future for girls means a better future for us all.
Primary runner-up: Alice De Abaitua, 11, London Fields primary school, London
There he was. Over there. Fear erupted inside me as I tried to blink away the tears that were blurring my vision. He had spotted me; a menacing smirk crawled across his face. He hated me. Hated who I am. I can't help feeling the way I do, being who I am - gay. I am a magnet to bullies: I seem to attract them. For me, there is always a thick, black cloud of misery hovering above my head, haunting my thoughts, making me query whether who I am is 'normal.'
The only question I have is: why…? Homophobic bullying. Not a subject many people like to talk about, but it ruins lives, tears people apart and throws them into dark corners of hopelessness and days spent in secrecy. Why should people be forced to live their lives in the shadows, never daring to show their true selves, even to their nearest relatives and friends? Something needs to change. Now.
Many young teenagers live under a shroud of fear, afraid of being 'found out' - this constant stress can cause severe depression and even result in suicide. For example: the LGF (Lesbian and Gay Foundation) says 16% of gay and bisexual boys have attempted suicide and 57% have thought about taking their own life in the UK.
Despite the British government recently permitting gay marriage in the UK, when the motion was finally passed, 136 conservative MPs were still opposed to the law. What kind of immature example is this setting to children, when even 'responsible' adults in positions of high power can deny a basic human right? No wonder a culture of intolerance has developed on our playgrounds. No wonder so many young people see the term 'gay' as an insult and not a fact.
Fortunately, some young homosexuals are able to disregard the hate they encounter at home and school: this is an increasing number of people who are determined not to hide in the closet and are prepared to stand up to homophobic bullying. However, this does not include the majority of innocent gay teenagers who experience this type of bullying during their young adulthood. They feel alone, and confused about their sexuality.
As a nation we need to overcome this; let homosexuals be treated as equals and let people not be shy to say the word 'gay.'
Primary runner-up: Rianne Taha, 10, St Cedds school, Chelmsford
"I've walked for so long… I'm leaving my children… my life's so hard." That's how Cassie felt after she was forced to leave Zimbabwe because of the country's leader. Cassie is a lady who migrated to England. She started her journey in the back of a lorry that would only fit two of her children, so sadly, she had to choose to take the younger two and leave the older two behind, consumed with fear, not knowing if she would ever see them again.
What mother could look at her four children and choose two of them to live? Can you imagine being forced to make such a choice? Strength shows not only in the ability to persist but in the ability to start over again. Now Cassie has a new fight on her hands. A fight against people's attitudes, prejudice and their indifference.
There is another story about a boy called Faraz. He comes from Iraq where there was war. He was only eight years old when he travelled for days in a petrol tanker, trying to escape to safety. The whole way, he was being suffocated by the fumes of the oil and he could have died.
He is the boy who sits in the corner at school now with no one to play with and no one to talk to. Can you imagine how you would feel? Witnessing bombing and shooting, moving as a refugee yet still not finding a happy life.
What can you do about it if someone new comes into your classroom and they are in their own world? I know what it's like because I have moved many times. When I came to Sudan and joined a new school, I didn't know anyone. I spent four years there and my mum wasn't there for two of them. When I moved to the UK, I also didn't know anything because the education was very different and the people were different.
It is very hard to move from place to place and it takes great strength. I ask you for one thing: there are 85,000 refugees here and every single one of them has a story to tell. Make sure you are listening. As Ban Ki Moon said, "Refugees leave because they have no choice. We must choose to help."
Find out more about the Amnesty Young Human Rights Reporter competition.
Special commendation also goes to the following longlisted primary entries
Amelia Cliff, BBG Academy, Cleckheaton
Miranda Gibbon, Merryhills primary school Enfield
Matthew Johnson, Gorseland primary school, Suffolk
Ediz Korusoy, Osidge primary school, London
Clement Marshall, Rhodes Avenue primary school, London
Ailsa Robb, Rhodes Avenue primary school, London
Bryony Smith, Gorseland primary school, Suffolk
Teaching resources on the Guardian Teacher Network
Amnesty's Guide to teaching controversial issues
Amnesty's teaching human rights lesson plan