Education Ministry to Ignore UN Children's Day This Year

The Education Ministry has decided not to hold any special activities this year to mark the United Nations' Universal Children's Day, which falls this Friday, November 20.

This year is also the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Israel is also a signatory.

The decision "shows the process of continual erosion in the treatment of children's and students' rights in the education system," said Dr. Na'ama Carmi of the University of Haifa's law school.

Between 2002 and 2006, the Education Ministry distributed thousands of copies of a booklet that described the rights of schoolchildren, such as the right to respect and protection, with the aid of illustrations. These booklets served as one of the main tools for discussing students' rights and obligations.

In 2006, then education minister Yuli Tamir stopped distributing the booklets, which were opposed by the teachers' unions. Since that time, the ministry has instead given the schools posters delineating students' rights.

This year, the Israel Internet Association initiated activities on children's rights, including several films preparing children to use the Internet, with assistance from the Education Ministry's student rights unit.

Carmi said a common perception in the Education Ministry is that students' rights lead to breaches of discipline and even to violence. However, she said, "if the ministry were to use human rights as an educational tool, it would be possible to teach that every person has rights, and therefore every person has an obligation to respect the rights of others. Then the result would be protection from violence."

Given that this year is the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Carmi added, it is especially disappointing that the ministry is missing this opportunity to study the issue of students' rights, including the teachers' arguments against them. "Instead, the ministry treats students' rights like the enemy of the system," she said.

The Education Ministry's supervisor of student rights, Tova Ben-Ari, yesterday proposed a special news broadcast for young people. Speaking at the Sderot Conference for Society, she also advocated establishing a broadcasting council in which both media figures and students would participate.

Journalists who report on issues relating to children, Ben-Ari added, "should study the Convention on the Rights of the Child."