The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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States parties recognize that a mentally or physically disabled child should enjoy a full and decent life, in conditions which ensure dignity, promote self-reliance and facilitate the child’s active participation in the community. States parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to: (a) The development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential; (b) The development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and for the principles enshrined in the charter of the United Nations;

(c) The development of respect for the child’s parents, his or her own cultural identity, language and values, for the national values of the country in which the child is living, the country from which he or she may originate, and for civilizations different from his or her own; (d) The preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin; (e) The development of respect for the natural environment.

Schools are among the places where children learn key skills and gain knowledge about the world, and where they are “socialized”, made aware of society’s future expectations of them as citizens. Often this has involved the enforcing of blind obedience and deference. But increasingly schools are places for socialization of a different kind, where children are enabled to think critically, where they learn about their rights and responsibilities and where they actively prepare for their role as citizens.

Development organizations of every size have long agreed about the cost-effectiveness of investing in girls’ education and about the urgent necessity of doing so, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where there are more than 50 million primary- school-age girls out of school...

UNICEF continues to campaign for classroom methods that maximize children’s participation, which encourage active learning rather than the passive reception of facts and received wisdom. Experience indicates a child-centred learning experience, grounded in the life and environment of the community, will also be one that encourages girls’ enrolment and continuation in school...

A recent survey by UNICEF indicated that children enjoy the level of participation and responsibility that the student governments allow them — as well as the skills they develop in leadership, public speaking and organization.

Schools, of course, are not the only arena where a child can learn the values of peace and democracy. Of equal import to the child and to development and peace are play and recreational activities, both of which are a child’s right and both of which have enormous potential for changing the lives of children for the better. Programmes in organized sports are assuming a greater role in the work of international organizations, members of the global movement for children, and local NGOs — and in programmes reaching out to girls as well as boys, and to children with disabilities as well as those without.

The value of sports for a child’s physical and mental development has long been acknowledged. And much has been written about the values and social skills that are learned through team sports, for example, conflict resolution, collaboration, understanding one’s opponents and how to win and lose with respect for others. Sports provide youth with their own space, both physically and emotionally. This is especially important for girls who often have fewer opportunities than boys for social interactions outside the home and beyond family networks.

In many countries, the kinds of public spaces that are seen as the only legitimate venues for girls and women, for example, markets and health clinics, are those related to their domestic roles as homemakers and mothers. In contrast, as girls begin to participate in sports and as female athletes gain public recognition, they acquire new community affiliations and access to new venues, find mentors for themselves and become mentors to others, and begin to more openly participate in community life.

What’s more, when the traditional male domain of sports opens up and allows girls and young women to participate, stereotypes of girls and women as ornamental or as weaker than boys - whether physically or emotionally — are broken down...

Sports are often used to engage a community in a common project. During the Kosovo crisis in 1999, for example, young people made important contributions to social reconstruction and peace-building through sports.

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