MONTREAL, FEBRUARY 16, 2012 - Westmount Park Elementary School has become the first primary institution in Quebec to become part of the Rights Respecting Schools (RRS) initiative of the UNICEF Canada Global Classroom. This is inspired by the Child Friendly Schools model, established by UNICEF worldwide, which aims at improving the quality of education both under ordinary conditions and in emergency situations.
This initiative, which is provided to the school at no official cost, uses the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to promote a school culture that is inclusive, participatory, and respectful of children and adults. The RRS model is currently offered to elementary schools in Canada. In concrete terms, this approach helps to facilitate classroom learning, reduce bullying and truancy, encourage compassion, improve the atmosphere in the classroom and the school and raise awareness of global issues among children and adults.
UNICEF Quebec has applauded the Quebec government’s announcement that it is implementing measures to reduce school bullying and violence.
"I think we all agree that this is a step in the right direction for addressing the problems of bullying and violence among young people,” said David Morley, president and CEO of UNICEF Canada. ”What makes this initiative even more welcome is that it supports several actions that UNICEF has been advocating for a number of years. Those actions, including the Rights Respecting Schools initiative, are always based on prevention and a culture of respect for others.”
"It is unfortunate, however, that the rights of the child are not mentioned anywhere in the materials or communications issued by the government. UNICEF firmly believes that it is an essential element in initiatives such as this, as evidenced by the success of Rights Respecting Schools. For example, when children know that they have the right not to be subjected to discrimination or violence, they understand that other children and adults also enjoy that right. Children then understand that they must act accordingly, and this results in improved relationships and behaviour.”
This promising initiative soon will be implemented in French-language schools across the province. “Several faculty members have already started to integrate child rights into their teaching, but I would say that the students' enthusiasm is our major motivator in moving forward,” said Westmount Park Principal Nathalie Lacroix-Maillette. “We can already see how by becoming a Rights Respecting School, we will be able to intervene to prevent bullying and violence.”