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Happy Birthday, Human Rights!

Celebrates 70 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted

by Claire Law

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To reflect upon human rights and why it is important to have a clear agreement on the rights to which all humans are entitled.

Preparation and materials


  1. Show Slide 1 as the students enter.

    Ask the students to think about which school rule they find most annoying. Invite two or three students to contribute their opinion on this, and listen to these opinions without much in the way of comment other than, ‘OK, so you find the rule that students must/must not . . . to be irritating. Thank you.’

  2. Show Slide 2.

    Point out that when we hear people’s opinions about some rules being a bit irritating, we might be tempted to dream of a school where there are no rules. A school where anything goes.

    Ask the students if any of them think that could be a good idea, inviting them to raise their hand to vote.

  3. Point out that, tempting as it might sound, a school without any rules might also soon become a school without any respect for one another or for the environment.

    - If everyone ran in the corridors, people could get knocked over. Some of the Year 7s could be trampled as Year 11s ran en masse past classrooms.
    - If everyone could turn up to lessons whenever they wanted, other students learning would be disrupted as classmates strolled into class 20 minutes late.
    - If everyone was allowed to drop litter, the school would become overrun with rubbish and possibly vermin.

  4. So, we may not always like school rules, but they are there to help make sure that we all take responsibility for looking after the rights and needs of others, the environment and the school buildings.

    To be clear about what the rules are, it is important that we have them written down. If appropriate, point out that a list of school expectations/rules can be found in planners, on the website, in classrooms and so on. Remind the students that every year, they sign a home-school agreement that makes it clear what the expectations are. Things like this are important to ensure that everyone is aware of what their responsibilities are.

  5. In a similar way, the world has a set of rules that have been written down so that everyone knows what they are. This December, that set of rules is 70 years old and its name is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or the UDHR for short.

    Show Slide 3.

    On 10 December 2018, the UDHR is 70 years old. It was adopted by the United Nations in 1948 as a means of setting out an agreement about the rights to which all humans are entitled and also the responsibilities of all nations to uphold and protect these rights. When the vote was cast to adopt the UDHR, 48 countries supported it.

    These countries agreed that the UDHR accurately stated the rights to which all humans in the world were entitled. This allowed for agreement on the rights of humans, and also the responsibility of humans to protect and uphold those rights. The UDHR set out 30 rights to which all humans are entitled. Let’s take a brief look at some of these.

    Show the summary of the 30 rights set out in the UDHR.

    Mention a few of these rights, such as the right to a fair trial; the right to privacy; the right to marriage and to found a family; and the right to education. Alternatively, you may wish to read out the whole list.

  6. Many countries, including the UK, have used the UDHR to guide and develop their internal laws. This short video will tell us more.

    Show the YouTube video ‘Your Human Rights’.

  7. Point out that, just as having school rules is not a guarantee that everyone will keep to them, not everyone in our world upholds and respects the human rights of others. There is injustice in the world and every day, people are still the victims of human rights abuses. However, having an agreement that sets out human rights makes it easier to decide when human rights have been infringed. One example of this is the case of Malala Yousafzai.

    Show Slide 4.

    Born in 1997 in Pakistan, Malala was clear that all children - both male and female – had a right to an education. In the area of Pakistan where she lived, the Taliban had at times banned girls from attending school. At the age of 12, Malala began a blog speaking out against this abuse of human rights. In October 2012, aged just 15, she was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman. She was seriously injured, but was transferred to hospital in the UK, where she eventually recovered. She stayed in the UK and continues to campaign for human rights. In 2014, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to acknowledge her work on human rights.

    Having a statement that had been agreed by many nations that everyone has the right to education and to freedom of expression meant that it was clear that Malala, and others, had been victims of human rights abuses.

  8. Show Slide 5.

    The charity Amnesty International UK campaigns to end human rights abuses across the world.

    Optional: follow-up resources from Amnesty International UK for PHSE or form time are available on its website.

Time for reflection

As we think about the issue of human rights, and as we celebrate 70 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, lets take time to reflect upon the importance of fairness and respect for one another.

Read out the following reflections, or ask some pre-arranged students to do so.

Let us pause to consider the ways in which each of us are unique and precious people who are created with gifts and a personality that makes us who we are. We pause to give thanks for our individuality.

Pause to allow time for thought.

Let us pause to consider the ways in which we are united with other human beings around the world. Although we are different, we share common human rights. We pause to give thanks for the way in which we can be part of a worldwide community, sharing in our common humanity.

Pause to allow time for thought.

Let us pause to consider those people in our world who work hard to protect the rights of others. Those who uphold the dignity and respect that all humans are entitled to. We pause to give thanks for their example and courage.

Pause to allow time for thought.

Dear God,
We thank you for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the way in which it helps us to remember the dignity that you created us to have.
We are sorry for the times when we have forgotten or ignored the rights of others.
We are sorry for the times when we have taken advantage of others or taken them for granted.
Help us to become people who respect one another, taking seriously our responsibilities towards others.
We pray for anyone who is a victim of human rights abuse today.
We pray that justice will be seen in their situation.
We remember that you are a God who loves us to act justly, and to love humbly.
We pray for love and justice for anyone who suffers today.

Publication date: December 2018   (Vol.20 No.12)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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