UNICEF Austria and the Directorate of Education for Vienna Launch UNICEF Children's Rights Schools in Vienna

Lifestyle & TravelCulture ♦ Published: October 24, 2022; 23:11 ♦ (Vindobona)

UNICEF Austria and the Directorate of Education for Vienna jointly launched the UNICEF Children's Rights Schools program in Vienna. According to the initiators, young people in particular need to be empowered in times of crisis. The first schools will start the program in October 2022.

In the joint project of the City of Vienna and UNICEF, children's rights are to become a living practice in Vienna's schools. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons / Thelmadatter, CC BY-SA 3.0

The program aims to anchor the children's rights from the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in everyday school life. In the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) children's rights schools, children and young people not only learn more about their rights but also experience their school as a place where children's rights are lived and taken seriously. This helps the children to better develop their personalities.

At the press conference, the panel - in addition to the Director of Education for Vienna, Heinrich Himmer, the Managing Director of UNICEF Austria, Christoph Jünger, the City Councillor for Education, Youth, Integration and Transparency and Vice Mayor of the City of Vienna, Christoph Wiederkehr, the Human Rights Officer of the City of Vienna, Shams Asadi, and the school principal Richard Pregler, who participates with his school "Campus Donaufeld" in the UNICEF program Children's Rights Schools - agreed that in times of crises, young people in particular need to be empowered.

"UNICEF Children's Rights Schools will make a decisive contribution to making rights also tangible and tangible," said Deputy Mayor Christoph Wiederkehr at the press conference in the BildungsHub.

The pandemic has made Christoph Jünger "clearly aware that children's rights are not 'self-evident' even in Austria." According to him, children and young people should loudly demand their rights such as participation or good school education.

That's why schools, as a central area of children's and young people's lives, must be made into a place where children's rights are lived out every day as the heart of the school community, as Jünger describes it, "School becomes a place where their opinions are taken seriously and children and young people, knowing and aware of their rights, stand up for the rights of their fellow human beings and thus help to shape our society positively!"

UNICEF's Children's Rights Schools program aims to promote an improved school climate through more positive interaction, understanding and respect by strengthening social skills. Results of this program in other countries show that living children's rights not only reduces phenomena such as bullying but also an improved learning climate leads to greater learning success in participating schools. Furthermore, living participation can motivate children and young people to become involved in society in the future and to actively stand up for their rights and those of others.

Children's rights are human rights

Children have rights and these must be strengthened and made more aware, according to Education Director Heinrich Himmer. In the pilot phase, ten Viennese schools are now starting with the UNICEF Children's Rights Program. Experiences in other countries show that the school climate is changing and everyone's respect for each other is growing, according to Himmer.

Schools will be able to join at any time, and educators will be able to complete e-learning units regardless of time and location. In addition, participation can be credited as continuing education for teachers. Another benefit is the synergy that arises concerning pedagogical quality management. Great is the process supported by experts from UNICEF.

The holistic concept of the UNICEF Children's Rights Schools is based on a multi-stage process in which the practical implementation of children's rights in the entire school community is discussed with each other and equally respected and supported by everyone. Together with trainers, measures are developed in workshops that are implemented at the school site and rewarded with a better school climate and UNICEF certification. A dedicated online platform guides the participants interactively and individually through several modules, such as youth participation, non-discrimination or violence prevention, to benefit collectively and in the long term from this new knowledge. The Education Directorate for Vienna supports the pioneering project UNICEF Children's Rights Schools primarily through its expertise in administrative issues and enables the best possible integration of the school program into existing structures and provides advice to the schools.

The all-day elementary school Campus Donaufeld is the first school to participate in the program. Richard Pregler, principal of the all-day elementary school Campus Donaufeld explained, "The topic of children's rights is naturally in the interest of pedagogically active people. Thus, support, protection and the best possible promotion are clear goals of any pedagogical action. Nevertheless, it is often pushed into the background in this area, because of the variety of tasks and demands that society places on educators. It's good that this project brings it to the forefront."

The measures developed in the schools for more children's rights are continuously monitored in their implementation and externally controlled before a school is awarded the UNICEF certificate "Children's Rights School". UNICEF Austria plans to continue the next phase of the school program in the 2023/24 school year in other selected federal states and to establish the UNICEF Children's Rights Schools throughout Austria in the long term.

"In a human rights city like Vienna, children's rights must be protected and their great importance must always be emphasized. The UNICEF Children's Rights Schools will make a decisive contribution to making rights also tangible and tangible: for example, the right to education, the right to health - especially about mental well-being - and the right to leisure and recreation. To give children a bright future, we have to offer them security in the present," says Christoph Wiederkehr, Deputy Mayor and City Councillor for Education of Vienna.

"Children's and young people's rights are human rights that affect all important areas of children's and young people's lives. They are a barometer of a society of 'togetherness'," says Shams Asadi, Human Rights Office of the City of Vienna.

UNICEF Austria