Child Rights: A Gist
The Convention on the Rights of the Child defines basic rights of children covering multiple needs and issues. India endorsed it on December 11, 1992. Following are a few rights in the immediate purview of Smile Foundation as well as India. The right to Education: 50% of Indian children aged 6-18 do not go to school Dropout rates increase alarmingly in class III to V, its 50% for boys, 58% for girls. The right to Expression: Every child has a right to express himself freely in which ever way he likes. Majority of children however are exploited by their elders and not allowed to express. The right to Information: Every child has a right to know his basic rights and his position in the society. High incidence of illiteracy and ignorance among the deprived and underprivileged children prevents them from having access to information about them and their society. The right to Nutrition: More than 50% of India’s children are malnourished. While one in every five adolescent boys is malnourished, one in every two girls in India is undernourished. The right to Health & Care: 58% of India’s children below the age of 2 years are not fully vaccinated.
And 24% of these children do not receive any form of vaccination. Over 60% of children in India are anemic. 95 in every 1000 children born in India, do not see their fifth birthday. 70 in every 1000 children born in India, do not see their first birthday. The right to protection from Abuse: There are approximately 2 million child commercial sex workers between the age of 5 and 15 years and about 3.3 million between 15 and 18 years. They form 40% of the total population of commercial sex workers in India. 500,000 children are forced into this trade every year. The right to protection from Exploitation: 17 million children in India work as per official estimates. A study found that children were sent to work by compulsion and not by choice, mostly by parents, but with recruiter playing a crucial role in influencing decision. When working outside the family, children put in an average of 21 hours of labour per week.
Poor and bonded families often “sell” their children to contractors who promise lucrative jobs in the cities and the children end up being employed in brothels, hotels and domestic work. Many run away and find a life on the streets. The right to protection from Neglect: Every child has a right to lead a well protected and secure life away from neglect. However, children working under exploitative and inhuman conditions get neglected badly. The right to Development: Every child has the right to development that lets the child explore her/his full potential. Unfavourable living conditions of underprivileged children prevents them from growing in a free and uninhibited way.
The right to Recreation: Every child has a right to spend some time on recreational pursuits like sports, entertainment and hobbies to explore and develop. Majority of poor children in India do not get time to spend on recreational activities. The right to Name & Nationality: Every child has a right to identify himself with a nation. A vast majority of underprivileged children in India are treated like commodities and exported to other countries as labour or prostitutes. The right to Survival: Of the 12 million girls born in India, 3 million do not see their fifteenth birthday, and a million of them are unable to survive even their first birthday. Every sixth girl child’s death is due to gender discrimination. Child Rights in India: An Introduction
India is a party to the UN declaration on the Rights of the Child 1959. Accordingly, it adopted a National Policy on Children in 1974. The policy reaffirmed the constitutional provisions for adequate services to children, both before and after birth and through the period of growth to ensure their full physical, mental and social development. Accordingly, the government is taking action to review the national and state legislation and bring it in line with the provisions of the Convention. It has also developed appropriate monitoring procedures to assess progress in implementing the Convention-involving various stake holders in the society.
India is also a signatory to the World Declaration on the Survival, Protection and Development of Children. In pursuance of the commitment made at the World Summit, the Department of Women and Child Development under the Ministry of Human Resource Development has formulated a National Plan of Action for Children. Most of the recommendations of the World Summit Action Plan are reflected in India’s National Plan of Action- keeping in mind the needs, rights and aspirations of 300 million children in the country. The priority areas in the Plan are health, nutrition, education, water, sanitation and environment. The Plan gives special consideration to children in difficult circumstances and aims at providing a framework, for actualization of the objectives of the Convention in the Indian context.
Status of Children in India
Recent UNICEF (2005) report on the state of the world’s children under the title “Childhood Under Threat” , speaking about India, states that millions of Indian children are equally deprived of their rights to survival, health, nutrition, education and safe drinking water. It is reported that 63 per cent of them go to bed hungry and 53 per cent suffer from chronic malnutrition. The report says that 147 million children live in kuchcha houses, 77 million do not use drinking water from a tap, 85 million are not being immunized, 27 million are severely underweight and 33 million have never been to school. It estimates that 72 million children in India between five and 14 years do not have access to basic education. A girl child is the worst victim as she is often neglected and is discriminated against because of the preference for a boy child.
National Commission for Protection of Child Rights
In order to ensure child rights practices and in response to India’s commitment to UN declaration to this effect, the government of India set up a National Commission for Protection of Child Rights.
The Commission is a statutory body notified under an Act of the Parliament on December 29, 2006. Besides the chairperson, it will have six members from the fields of child health, education, childcare and development, juvenile justice, children with disabilities, elimination of child labour, child psychology or sociology and laws relating to children. The Commission has the power to inquire into complaints and take suo motu notice of matters relating to deprivation of child’s rights and non-implementation of laws providing for protection and development of children among other things. Aimed at examining and reviewing the safeguards provided by the law to protect child rights, the Commission will recommend measures for their effective implementation.
It will suggest amendments, if needed, and look into complaints or take suo motu notice of cases of violation of the constitutional and legal rights of children. The Commission is to ensure proper enforcement of child rights and effective implementation of laws and programmes relating to children- enquiring into complaints and take suo motu cognizance of matters relating to deprivation of child rights; non-implementation of laws providing for protection and development of children and non-compliance of policy decisions, guidelines or instructions aimed at their welfare and announcing relief for children and issuing remedial measures to the state governments. Convention on the Rights of the Child
Adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession by General Assembly resolution 44/25 of 20 November 1989 Right to education
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The right to education is a universal entitlement to education, a right that is recognized as a human right. According to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights the right to education includes the right to free, compulsory primary education for all, an obligation to develop secondary education accessible to all, in particular by the progressive introduction of free secondary education, as well as an obligation to develop equitable access to higher education, ideally by the progressive introduction of free higher education. The right to education also includes a responsibility to provide basic education for individuals who have not completed primary education. In addition to these access to education provisions, the right to education encompasses the obligation to rule out discrimination at all levels of the educational system, to set minimum standards and to improve quality of education.
 International legal basis
The right to education is law in Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Articles 200 and 14 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The right to education has been reaffirmed in the 1960 UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education and the 1981 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. In Europe, Article 2 of the first Protocol of 20 March 1952 to the European Convention on Human Rights states that the right to education is recognized as a human right and is understood to establish an entitlement to education.
According to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the right to education includes the right to free, compulsory primary education for all, an obligation to develop secondary education accessible to all in particular by the progressive introduction of free secondary education, as well as an obligation to develop equitable access to higher education in particular by the progressive introduction of free higher education. The right to education also includes a responsibility to provide basic education for individuals who have not completed primary education. In addition to these access to education provisions, the right to education encompasses also the obligation to eliminate discrimination at all levels of the educational system, to set minimum standards and to improve quality. The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has applied this norm for example in the Belgian linguistic case. Article 10 of the European Social Charter guarantees the right to vocational education.
Education narrowly refers to formal institutional instructions. Generally, international instruments use the term in this sense and the right to education, as protected by international human rights instruments, refers primarily to education in a narrow sense. The 1960 UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education defines education in Article 1(2) as: “all types and levels of education, (including) access to education, the standard and quality of education, and the conditions under which it is given.” In a wider sense education may describe “all activities by which a human group transmits to its descendants a body of knowledge and skills and a moral code which enable the group to subsist”. In this sense education refers to the transmission to a subsequent generation of those skills needed to perform tasks of daily living, and further passing on the social, cultural, spiritual and philosophical values of the particular community.
The wider meaning of education has been recognised in Article 1(a) of UNESCO’s 1974 Recommendation concerning Education for International Understanding, Co-operation and Peace and Education relating to Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. The article states that education implies: “the entire process of social life by means of which individuals and social groups learn to develop consciously within, and for the benefit of, the national and international communities, the whole of their personal capabilities, attitudes, aptitudes and knowledge.” The European Court of Human Rights has defined education in a narrow sense as “teaching or instructions… in particular to the transmission of knowledge and to intellectual development” and in a wider sense as “the whole process whereby, in any society, adults endeavour to transmit their beliefs, culture and other values to the young.”
 Assessment of fulfilment
The fulfilment of the right to education can be assessed using the 4 As framework, which asserts that for education to be a meaningful right it must be available, accessible, acceptable and adaptable. The 4 As framework was developed by the former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, Katarina Tomasevski, but is not necessarily the standard used in every international human rights instrument and hence not a generic guide to how the right to education is treated under national law.
The 4 As framework proposes that governments, as the prime duty-bearer, has to respect, protect and fulfil the right to education by making education available, accessible, acceptable and adaptable. The framework also places duties on other stakeholders in the education process: the child, which as the privileged subject of the right to education has the duty to comply with compulsory education requirements, the parents as the ‘first educators’, and professional educators, namely teachers. The 4 As have been further elaborated as follows:
* Availability – funded by governments, education is universal, free and compulsory. There should be proper infrastructure and facilities in place with adequate books and materials for students. Buildings should meet both safety and sanitation standards, such as having clean drinking water. Active recruitment, proper training and appropriate retention methods should ensure that enough qualified staff is available at each school.  * Accessibility – all children should have equal access to school services regardless of gender, race, religion, ethnicity or socio-economic status. Efforts should be made to ensure the inclusion of marginalized groups including children of refugees, the homeless or those with disabilities. There should be no forms of segregation or denial of access to any students.
This includes ensuring that proper laws are in place against any child labour or exploitation to prevent children from obtaining primary or secondary education. Schools must be within a reasonable distance for children within the community, otherwise transportation should be provided to students, particularly those that might live in rural areas, to ensure ways to school are safe and convenient. Education should be affordable to all, with textbooks, supplies and uniforms provided to students at no additional costs.  * Acceptability – the quality of education provided should be free of discrimination, relevant and culturally appropriate for all students.
Students should not be expected to conform to any specific religious or ideological views. Methods of teaching should be objective and unbiased and material available should reflect a wide array of ideas and beliefs. Health and safety should be emphasized within schools including the elimination of any forms of corporal punishment. Professionalism of staff and teachers should be maintained. * Adaptability – educational programs should be flexible and able to adjust according to societal changes and the needs of the community. Observance of religious or cultural holidays should be respected by schools in order to accommodate students, along with providing adequate care to those students with disabilities.  A number of international NGOs and charities work to realise the right to education using a rights-based approach to development.
In Europe, before the Enlightenment of the eighteenth and nineteenth century, education was the responsibility of parents and the church. With the French and American Revolution education was established also as a public function. It was thought that the state, by assuming a more active role in the sphere of education, could help to make education available and accessible to all. Education had thus far been primarily available to the upper social classes and public education was perceived as a means of realising the egalitarian ideals underlining both revolutions. However, neither the American Declaration of Independence (1776) nor the French Declaration of the Rights of Man (1789) protected the right to education as the liberal concepts of human rights in the nineteenth century envisaged that parents retained the primary duty for providing education to their children. It was the states obligation to ensure that parents complied with this duty, and many states enacted legislation making school attendance compulsory.
Furthermore child labour laws were enacted to limit the number of hours per day children could be employed, to ensure children would attend school. States also became involved in the legal regulation of curricula and established minimum educational standards. In On Liberty John Stuart Mill wrote that an “education established and controlled by the State should only exist, if it exists at all, as one among many competing experiments, carried on for the purpose of example and stimulus to keep the others up to a certain standard of excellence.” Liberal thinkers of the nineteenth century pointed to the dangers to too much state involvement in the sphere of education, but relied on state intervention to reduce the dominance of the church, and to protect the right to education of children against their own parents. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, educational rights were included in domestic bills of rights.
The 1849 Paulskirchenverfassung, the constitution of the German Empire, strongly influenced subsequent European constitutions and devoted Article 152 to 158 of its bill of rights to education. The constitution recognised education as a function of the state, independent of the church. Remarkable at the time, the constitution proclaimed the right to free education for the poor, but the constitution did not explicitly require the state to set up educational institutions. Instead the constitution protected the rights of citizens to found and operate schools and to provide home education. The constitution also provided for freedom of science and teaching, and it guaranteed the right of everybody to choose a vocation and train for it. The nineteenth century also saw the development of socialist theory, which held that the primary task of the state was to ensure the economic and social well-being of the community through government intervention and regulation.
Socialist theory recognised that individuals had claims to basic welfare services against the state and education was viewed as one of these welfare entitlements. This was in contrast to liberal theory at the time, which regarded non-state actors as the prime providers of education. Socialist ideals were enshrined in the 1936 Soviet Constitution, which was the first constitution to recognise the right to education with a corresponding obligation of the state to provide such education. The constitution guaranteed free and compulsory education at all levels, a system of state scholarships and vocational training in state enterprises. Subsequently the right to education featured strongly in the constitutions of socialist states. As a political goal, right to education was declared in F. D. Roosevelt’s 1944 speech on the Second Bill of Rights.
International law does not protect the right to pre-primary education and international documents generally omit references to education at this level. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to education, hence the right applies to all individuals, although children are understood as the main beneficiaries. The rights to education are separated into three levels:
* Primary (Elemental or Fundamental) Education. This shall be compulsory and free for any child regardless of their nationality, gender, place of birth, or any other discrimination. Upon ratifying the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights States must provide free primary education within two years. * Secondary (or Elementary, Technical and Professional in the UDHR) Education must be generally available and accessible. * Higher Education (at the University Level) should be provided according to capacity. That is, anyone who meets the necessary education standards should be able to go to university. Both secondary and higher education shall be made accessible “by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education”.
 Compulsory education
The realisation of the right to education on a national level may be achieved through compulsory education, or more specifically free compulsory primary education, as stated in both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Action For Children (AFC)
Action for Children (AFC) conceptualised by Wild Ganzen and supported by Net4Kids and Kids Rights aims at involving privileged citizens, civil society groups and various institutions including corporates in the development process.
This programme supported by the Dutch Government promoted consortium (Wild Ganzen, Net4Kids and Kids Rights) has given a boost to the initiative. The programme is being implemented in three developing economies of the world namely Brazil, South Africa and India. Smile Foundation joined hands with the Consortium in April 2008 and since then has been executing the programme in India. The objective is to stimulate more fortunate mass to be a part of the development process and ensure sustainability of grassroots initiatives across India. Through AFC, Smile Foundation encourages people to ‘stand up and act’ to bring a change in the lives of underprivileged children and youth.
Action For Children is based on the concept that development is a people’s issue and not just the government’s concern. With this premise, the Foundation has been striving to build a civil society that owes responsibility for societal development and participate whole-heartedly in transforming the lives of underprivileged children. Through AFC, Smile Foundation encourages individuals, civil society groups, corporate houses, professional associations, schools, colleges, youth wings to participate in the development process. The Action for Children programme sensitizes and involves the fortunate mass through:
1. Local Actions
Local Action connotes organizing an event to raise funds for a child centric project. It can be organised by individuals, groups and institutions in their region. Local action aims at sensitization and consequent involvement of the privileged mass in raising funds for children through various activities
KidsXL is a school exchange programme wherein children of privileged school and underprivileged school are brought together under one platform. Several interactive sessions and special activities are organized for the children. KidsXL aims at bringing the children from both the segments closer, thereby reducing social disparities. In the process, the children also learn to be sensitive and responsible towards the society
3. Media Advocacy
The aim is to involve media in creating awareness among the people and advocating the cause before a wide audience. The Foundation sensitizes people through documentaries, Public Service Advertisements, news features, advocacy campaigns, rallies etc.
4. Corporate Social Responsibility
CSR aims at sensitising and involving corporates in the development process. It gives the corporates an opportunity to give back to the society. It is based on a partnership model wherein corporates partner with Smile Foundation either to support the whole or a part of capital cost or running cost of a child centric project. The inherent objective of the programme is to ensure that the development activities become locally sustainable.