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Human Rights Issues


Only programmes that alter the whole school environment, culture and ethos are effective in addressing bullying  according to a 2009 report by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner.

The comprehensive report, School Safety (2009), outlines the human rights issues involved and made recommendations to schools based on research and successful practice. It was followed in April 2010 by Responsive Schools -- an indispensable evidence-based guide to how schools can fulfil their students’ right to personal security in school settings.

“Bullying consistently rates as one of the biggest concerns for children and young people in New Zealand,” said Dr Cindy Kiro on the forward to School Safety, which cites research indicating high levels of physical and emotional bullying compared to other countries – with one study rating New Zealand schools among the worst category in the world for bullying, with rates more than 50 percent above the international average. (p.viii)

Bullying violates young people’s human rights to personal security, health and education, and requires effective school action.

Building a consistent culture of rights, respect and responsibility in the school – as envisaged in the Human Rights in Education initiative – can make a major contribution to reducing bullying.

The following advice for schools is taken from the OCC reports:

Updated 8 Sep 2011



Children and young people with disabilities in New Zealand face issues related to their human rights on a regular basis. It is important that early childhood education services and schools understand the rights of children and young people with disabilities.

"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."

- Article 23 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child


Objective Two of the New Zealand Disability Strategy published by the Ministry of Health in 2001 is to 'ensure rights for disabled people'.

Two of the 'Actions' within this objective are:

  • Provide information for everyone about the rights of disabled people.
  • Provide education to ensure that disabled people understand their rights,recognise discrimination and are able to be self-advocates.

Become more informed about supporting the human rights of the disabled in New Zealand by;

Gender and sexuality

Article 2 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child states that children and young people are to be protected against all forms of discrimination or punishment on the basis of status (gender or sexuality).

Become more informed about supporting the human rights of young people in New Zealand on gender and sexuality issues by;

Te Reo Maori

Article 30 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that indigenous children, or children who come from ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities shall not be denied the right to their own culture, religion and language.

Become more informed about supporting the human rights of Maori childrenby:


Too many young New Zealanders are failing to exercise their own right to education through high rates of truancy in our schools. Students themselves through repetitive school absences and truancy, fail to realise their right to education.

To read more about truancy in NZ schools as a human rights issue click here

In line with sound education philosophy and New Zealand’s commitments under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, ECE services and schools have responsibility to ensure that their policies, programmes and practices respect the dignity and rights of every child in their care.

This includes the child’s right to an education aimed at ‘the development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential’, and ‘preparation...for responsible life in a free society’ (UNCRoC article 29).

As in any community, there are specific human rights challenges to be tackled in early childhood education and schools. In this space we will feature some of those as the Human Rights in Education initiative develops.

Last Updated (Wednesday, 21 December 2011 15:27)