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Children tell NZ Government what’s important

UNICEF NZ (The UN Children’s Fund)

Media Release

Children tell NZ Government what’s important to them

Wellington, 18 November 2008. – Children from a northern Wellington primary school have shared their beliefs with the Government and United Nations on what they think is important for young people.

Pupils from a Maungaraki School class had their say as part of a UNICEF submission on the NZ Government report that identifies government initiatives to ensure the best outcomes for NZ children consistent with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Government’s around the world report to the UN Committee on Children every five years.

UNICEF NZ Domestic Advocacy Manager, Barbara Lambourn, says that the children gave very considered and insightful opinions in response to a series of discussion questions.

“Asked about the case of children whose parents or guardians don’t have permission to be in NZ, they felt it was not fair that such children could not legally go to school or hospital, or have medical treatment when needed.

“They said that those children didn’t know that their parents are not supposed to be in NZ and they have to be with their parents.

“They also thought it very important that all children should have time to play and to go to school, and that having to work – such as in a part-time job – should not interfere with this.

“Some children thought they should get the same money as adults for doing the same work if they did it properly, but others felt children might not do it as well because they need time to learn so should get about half of what adults get.”

Ms Lambourn says that the class expressed a strong belief that children should not be locked up with adults if they have committed a crime. They were concerned that something bad could happen to them and felt that if children had to be in jail, it should be in a special kid’s jail.

“But they thought children should get a warning first and only then go to a kid’s jail to learn a lesson or have home arrest so that they could still go to school and keep learning.”

Ms Lambourn says that the children’s comments were summarised and included in UNICEF’s submission to the Government earlier this year. The Government has confirmed that the children’s views will be included in the Government’s report to the UN Committee on Children.

The Convention forms the foundation of UNICEF’s work and sets out the basic rights of children and the obligations of governments to fulfil those rights. NZ ratified the Convention in 1993.

Ms Lambourn says UNICEF is launching educational materials designed to inform children about the Convention. A CD “Learning about child rights and responsibilities” has been sent to every primary and intermediate school in NZ. The CD contains classroom lessons designed to help Kiwi children understand their own rights and responsibilities, and link these to the rights of children everywhere.

UNICEF has also produced a bilingual English-Maori brochure explaining the Convention and some of its key articles. The brochures are available free to groups and schools.   

UNICEF and the Children’s Commissioner will thank the children for their help and celebrate the 19th Anniversary of the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child with a morning tea at Maungaraki School on Thursday, 20 November.

Joining the school celebration will be Kiwi Douglas Higgins who is Deputy Representative with UNICEF Southern Sudan. Douglas will share what it is like for children in Southern Sudan.

Sudan is emerging from two decades of civil war and UNICEF is working at all levels to help children return to normal lives. Since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005, more than 12 million children have benefited from measles vaccinations, while school enrolment has more than tripled.


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