During the week between the 24th April and the 1st May 2016, OBESSU held the Study Session “Bringing Human Rights Education to School” organised in cooperation with the Youth Department of the Council of Europe (CoE) in the European Youth Centre in Budapest, Hungary.

The Study Session aimed at empowering school students to be human rights advocates by bringing Human Rights Education (HRE) to schools. For this, the concrete objectives of the study session included: to create awareness of HRE and to explore it in practice; to explore current human right issues in Europe by linking local, national, European, global levels; to familiarise participants with the CoE instruments in human rights (e.g. The Charter on EDC/HRE) and how to work with them; to investigate and share participants’ organisational realities in relation to HR/HRE; to analyse the role of School Student Unions and other stakeholders in formal education in fostering common action regarding HRE; to create a link between Student Rights and HR; to get to know the work and resources of the Youth Department of the CoE and how to use them in practice; and to provide a space and support participants in planning and implementing HRE actions.

The week was a real success and both participants and prep-team went home with a strengthened sense of responsibility towards Human Rights and Human Rights Education, and with the strong will to take action and multiply what they have learned during this experience.

Everything started officially on Monday with a day dedicated to introduce the programme, the objectives, OBESSU and the work of the Council of Europe. It was also the time for team building, setting up a safe and comfortable space and to start exploring the concept of Human Rights.

“We are way more powerful when we turn to each other and not on each other, when we celebrate our diversity and together tear down the mighty walls of injustice.”
(Cynthia McKinney, American politician and activist)

During the second day of the Study Session, through a simulation game participants had first-hand experience on Human Rights and Human Rights issues and reflected on them. The afternoon was dedicated at reflecting on current violations of Human Rights in our closer communities, in Europe and in the world. Participants became “journalists” and shared the stories from different perspectives in order to raise awareness on the different issues affecting people from all over the world. During the final session of the day, participants explored the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights as well as the European Convention on Human Rights, as two of the main instruments available in this field.

If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. [] We need not wait to see what others do (Mahatma Gandhi)

The third day of the event served to further explore the instruments and mechanisms available to protect and defend Human Rights. In this sense, participants simulated a case from the European Court on Human Rights and further explored other documents available to them like the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. During the afternoon participants were introduced to the concept of Human Rights Education and they reflected on the competences it tries to promote. At the end of the day, we watched Path to Dignity, an inspiring documentary on the power of HRE to change peoples’ lives. It served as food for thought to reflect on the importance of providing HRE.

Human Rights they are for all
So listen now and hear our call
Employer, politician, woman or man,
It is your abusive powers we wish to ban,
No-one can take our Human Rights away!

(Participant to the OBESSU Study Session)

The fourth day started with a sharing of experiences in participants’ organisations and countries, when it comes to HRE. They reflected on their activities as school student unions and discussed with their peers around their own practices as well as how their national curricula include or not Human Rights Education. The morning ended with a midterm evaluation in which participants reflected on their own learning process and expectations. They spent the rest of the day on a welcomed and well deserved free afternoon discovering the beautiful city of Budapest.

With recovered energies, the fifth day was dedicated to look forward and imagine how participants would like to see educational systems integrating Human Rights Education and what are the obstacles and opportunities to reach these goals. During the afternoon, Domagoj Moric from the GOOD Initiative from Croatia joined the study session to facilitate the discussion on what are the main stakeholders when trying to bring HRE into Formal Education and to share the experience of an initiative in Croatia. The last session of the day was dedicated to introduce different resources available to implement and promote HRE in different settings and environments.

Saturday was the last day of the entire event and it focused on the follow up of the activity, with a strong view to the future. Participants were invited to reflect on how did the week change them personally and what would be the change they would like to see in their communities. From here, they were invited to imagine, plan and share with the rest of the group what would be their action plans once arrived home. We as well carried out a final evaluation and wished everyone a lot of luck in their future steps and endeavours raising awareness, protecting and defending Human Rights and Human Rights Education.

The week would not have been possible without the hard work of the prep-team, composed by Ferre from VSK (Belgium), Lasse from DGS (Denmark), Ida from the OBESSU Pool of Trainers, Laufey Maria from the OBESSU Board, Sabine from the Council of Europe (CoE) and Estel from the OBESSU Secretariat. We really want to thank all of them for the positive energy and motivation!

Want to see more pictures about the event? Check out this album on Facebook and the hashtag  #obessuHRE