Viable Human Rights Friendly Schools

Aurelia Donnard* and Touria Bouabid**

Students attending the Ibn Youssef High School in Marrakesh may not see themselves as trend-setters in global education. But, after a visit to their school, Moroccan educational authorities encouraged the school to continue its efforts for making human rights an integral part of everyday school life. The Lycée Ibn Youssef is one of a growing number of schools around the world that are supported by Amnesty International’s Human Rights Friendly Schools project, whose methodologies and successes are highlighted in a new guide:

Becoming a Human Rights Friendly School: A guide for schools around the world offers 10 Global Principles for Human Rights Friendly Schools that can be integrated into four key areas of school life – governance, relationships, curriculum and extra-curricular activities, and the overall school environment. A toolkit of human rights education resources accompanies the guide.

 “Human rights education is a participatory practice aimed at empowering individuals and communities, equipping them with the knowledge, attitudes, values and skills that they need to enjoy and exercise their rights and to respect and uphold the rights of others,” said Sneh Aurora, International Human Rights Education Manager at Amnesty International. “With this new guide, we’re offering practical suggestions for schools around the world to make human rights a viable part of their curricula, teaching methodology and broader learning environment that has a lasting impact not just on students, but also on their wider communities.”

Integrating human rights into education

In 2009, Amnesty International developed the Human Rights Friendly Schools project within the context of the UN World Programme for Human Rights Education. The Programme’s initial phase from 2005 to 2009 – aimed at primary and secondary schools worldwide – called for a holistic approach to human rights education, encouraging national governments not only to support schools to teach about human rights, but also to ensure that schools were run according to human rights values and principles. Since 2010, a second phase has expanded the focus to also cover higher education.

 “The Human Rights Friendly Schools project is based on the premise that everyone has the right to know, seek and receive information about all human rights and fundamental freedoms and should have access to human rights education and training,” said Sneh Aurora. Fifteen secondary schools from 14 countries – in all regions of the world – took part in a pilot of Amnesty International’s Human Rights Friendly Schools project from September 2009 to July 2011.

Human Rights Friendly Schools are places where human rights are at the heart of the learning experience and present in all key areas of school life. They are inclusive environments where all are encouraged to take part, regardless of status or role, and where cultural diversity is celebrated.

Schools such as Lycée Ibn Youssef aim to build capacity of the whole school community by promoting a democratic environment, innovative teaching methods and responsible citizenship. The school community at Lycée Ibn Youssef believes that inclusion is key to becoming a Human Rights Friendly School, embracing human rights not only inside the classroom, but also as an integral part of its clubs and extra-curricular activities –  a safe space was created for girls to provide them with a learning environment where women’s rights and values such as openness, tolerance and debate are promoted.

Building on HRE work in Morocco

Lycée Ibn Youssef is one of the three Human Rights Friendly schools in Morocco, demonstrating how Amnesty International can effectively engage with educational authorities to integrate human rights education into the curriculum.

Amnesty International Morocco used human rights education to gain space to work in Morocco raising awareness of human rights in the country, focusing on the future which complemented the government’s own efforts to ‘get out of an era of human rights violations’. Dialogues, seminars, and school engagements began in 1994 , and became the foundation of a robust HRE programme leading to the establishment of a formal AI entity in Morocco in 1998. Seizing the opportunity of the UN Decade for Human Rights Education to work with the government and build a positive partnership with the Ministry of Education, AI Morocco is now nationally known for its teacher training programme - which was the genesis of the growing and informed constituency base that actively supports AI campaigns and other work.

As the Human Rights Friendly Schools project now engages a greater number of schools and expands to new countries, Amnesty International sees the new guide as an opportunity to consolidate, reflect and share the experiences and learning to date, and continue to support schools in their journey to become human rights friendly in Morocco and around the world.

* Interim Human Rights Education Advisor-Projects, Amnesty International, International Secretariat.

** Human Rights Education Coordinator, Amnesty International – Morocco


For more information about the Human Rights Friendly Schools project, please contact Touria Bouabid, the Human Rights Education Coordinator at Amnesty International – Morocco.


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