By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
Children, parents, teachers, and personnel of public and private basic education schools, representatives from government agencies, civil society, and international organizations gathered on Thursday as the Department of Education (DepEd) hosts the first-ever national summit on the rights of the child in education.
Slated from November 14 to 15, DepEd – through its Legal Affairs Office – has partnered with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Save the Children Philippines, Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC), Plan International Philippines, Child Protection Network (CPN), and Ateneo Human Rights Center for the conduct of the said summit held at The Heritage Hotel Manila, Pasay City.
“Every child, no matter how small, is a whole person with dignity and rights. We are celebrating this truth in this first national summit on the rights of the child in education,” said Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Josephine Maribojoc. “As duty-bearers, we are called to respect, protect, fulfill and promote children’s physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual, and social being,” she added.
Anchored on the theme, “Bata, Bata: Karapatan Mo, Tungkulin Ko”, the two-day summit is in line with the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) on November 20, and the annual celebration of the National Children’s Month in November under Republic Act No. 10661.
“Our youth have a significant role in nation-building,” Maribojoc explained. “Every child should have access to education, as stated in Article 28 of the CRC, and that education aims at the holistic development of children under Article 29 of the CRC,” she added.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian and Rep. Roman Romulo, both chairpersons of the Committee on Basic Education in the House and Senate, are among those who delivered statements of commitment to the rights of the child during the summit.
“I stand with you in realizing the dreams and aspirations of the CRC,” Gatchalian said. “As a public servant for years, our resounding battle cry is to recognize the rights of children to education and to achieve this right progressively on the basis of equal opportunity,” he added.
Romulo, on the other hand, shared the commitment of the House of Representatives in education-related initiatives. Among the current education-related initiatives at the HOR, he noted, is the revival of the Good Manners and Right Conduct (GMRC) at the House, institutionalizing the Alternative Learning System (ALS) through a passage of a law; strengthening Special Education (SPED) as well as the review of the K to 12 program. “By next year, we will call for an Education Summit to really discuss the issues and challenges in education,” he added.
Ambassador Maria Teresa Almojuela, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva, Switzerland; League of Municipalities of the Philippines newly-elected National President, Mayor Luis “Chavit” Singson; Mary Mitzi Cajayon-Uy, Undersecretary and Executive Director of Council for the Welfare of Children; Dr. Lourdes Sese, President of Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA) ; Philippine Business for Social Progress Executive Director Reynaldo Laguda; Maria Regina Adoracion Filomena Ignacio, Assistant Court Administrator of the office of the Court Administrator of the Supreme Court of the Philippines; Lars Jorgenssen, Executive Director, Stairway Foundation and Jing Castaneda, Program Director of Bantay Bata 163 also stated their commitments to protecting and promoting children’s rights during the first NSCREd.
On the first day of the summit, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child Member and Independent Expert Mikiko Otani also discussed the CRC. Education Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones will deliver the keynote address on the second day of the summit.
DepEd noted that the event aims to “reaffirm the commitment of the stakeholders to respect, protect, and fulfill the rights of the child, as enshrined in the 1987 Philippine Constitution, other domestic laws and rules, and international law, primarily the CRC” and “unpack the various rights of the child in basic education and provide a venue to deepen appreciation of these by both the rights-holders and duty-bearers in a rights-based framework of basic education.”
The Summit also aims to “celebrate successes in upholding the rights of the child and identify challenges in their realization to help address them with a whole-of-society approach, including the participation of children themselves as rights-holders.”