‘Rights-based’ education needed to protect children in schools

Sofia Tomacruz
DepEd Assistant Secretary Josephine Maribojoc says teaching children the universality of human rights will give them the skills needed to protect themselves from violence and abuse and seek help when needed

EDUCATION RIGHTS. DepEd Assistant Secretary Josephine Marijoboc says education rights mean much more than ensuring access to learning environments. Photo by Sofia Tomacruz/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Education Assistant Secretary Josephine Maribojoc on Thursday, August 23, said if children rights are to be protected in schools, government and school officials must understand that rights to education are “much more” than ensuring mere access to schools or learning centers.

Speaking at the DepEd’s first national summit on child protection, Maribojoc said a “broader understanding” of education is needed to ensure the rights of children are always protected. She added a “holistic approach” includes focus on teaching children the universality of human rights. 

“Much attention, energy, and resources are devoted to protect and promote the right to education, which many understand in a rather limited sense as a right of access to free basic education,” she said.

“We need to espouse a broader understanding of education rights to include not only their right to education, as commonly perceived, but also their rights in education in schools,” she added.

Maribojoc said a rights-based approach will teach children skills needed to protect themselves from violence and abuse. Moreover, it will also teach students the skills needed to report abuse and seek professional help when needed.

Help protect children

According to Unicef Philippines representative Lotta Sylwander, 3 in 5 children reported having experienced some form of physical or emotional abuse. Meanwhile, she said 1 in 5 children reported having been sexually abused by someone they know.

PROTECT. Unicef Philippines representative Lotta Sylwander says children need help to be protected. Photo by Sofia Tomacruz/Rappler

“Whether children are at home, in school, or online, they need help to be protected,” Sylwander said.

Beyond providing access and quality of education, Marijoboc said a rights-based approach to education also includes the right to respect in learning environments.

Part of this included fostering an environment of respect free from discrimination, respect for privacy, freedom of expression, religion, thoughts, and association.

She also said ensuring children were in safe learning environments meant protecting children from all forms of violence, abuse, neglect or maltreatment as well as “proper administration of school discipline consistent with the dignity of children and all their rights.”

“The DepEd made a promise that the plan of action will not be a piece of paper gathering dust over time but a living covenant that will be a fertile ground for planting seeds of action to protect our children,” Marijoboc said.

The summit gathers school representatives from different regions in the country, child rights experts, as well as government officials to further strengthen DepEd’s Child Protection Policy.

The gathering takes place as the DepEd investigates the case Bicol Central Academy (BCA) school administrator Alexander James Jaucian, who allegedly ordered students’ bags be burned after they failed to follow a “no-bag” policy for a school event.

BCA’s school board of trustees earlier suspended Jaucian for 90 days following the incident.

Meanwhile DepEd Bicol Director Gilbert Sadsad earlier told Rappler they would ask the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to file criminal charges against Jaucian for violation of the Child Protection Policy. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.