A special day given over to recognising the protection of the rights of children is celebrated by nearly every nation in the world.
The establishment of International Children’s Day was first proclaimed by the World Conference for the Well-being of Children in 1925 and then established universally in 1954. Its main aim then was to draw attention to and protect children working long hours in dangerous circumstances and to allow all children access to an education.
Children’s Day is often celebrated on other days as well and over the course of the 20th century, the global date of the holiday was mixed across Cold War political divides with the Soviet Union, communist and socialist nations all using the date of June 1.
Regardless of the date or political beliefs, the fundamental concept of providing children the health, education and protection they need to flourish is recognised as being universal. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was ratified in 1989.
Two of the Convention’s 54 articles focus specifically on education. Article 28 (The Right to Education) says: “The Convention places a high value on education. Young people should be encouraged to reach the highest level of education of which they are capable.” Article 29 (The Goals of Education), states: ‘Children’s education should develop each child’s personality, talents and abilities to the fullest. It should encourage children to respect others, human rights and their own and other cultures. It should also help them learn to live peacefully, protect the environment and respect other people.’
One of the most famous and inspiring political leaders of modern times has been Nelson Mandela. Shortly after becoming the first non-white president of South Africa on May 10, 1994, he gave a powerful speech on International Children’s Day when he said: “We extend our solidarity with children throughout the world whose lives are ravaged by the scourges of hunger, war and ignorance. We commit ourselves to contribute, to the best of our ability, to the international efforts aimed at resolving these problems. Our approach to the question of children’s social and political rights derives from the basic principle that to value our children is to value our future.”