Swedish children ignorant of their rights

The Swedish children's ombudsman, Lena Nyberg, has called for an state campaign to inform schoolchildren of their rights; one of the suggestions in a new government report.

The new annual report from the children’s ombudsman (BO) entitled “Sweden rules! Children and youth talk about their country,” will be submitted to the government on March 31st. In an opinion article in Dagens Nyheter (DN), Lena Nyberg has laid out the main points of the report.

Around 50 percent of those questioned were positive to immigrants and 13 percent would like to see “immigration, integration and racism,” given more priority. Schools, crime and punishment, the climate and the environment, are other areas in which pupils sought change.

Stress remains a persistent factor among school children. 53 percent of girls and 41 percent of boys felt stressed at least once a week; up from 45 percent and 38 percent respectively in 2000.

Children and youth were shown to have little knowledge of their rights.

70 percent of those questioned were not familiar with the existence of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. One in three respondents could not come up with a single right considered to be of importance.

Nyberg argued that it is worrying that children did not know of the right to freedom of expression contained in articles 12 and 13 of the convention. She urged that the government take the lead in developing a long term strategy for the spread of knowledge and information to children and youth in Sweden today.

32 percent of respondents claimed that schools do not respect the equal value of all individuals, only 44 percent responded that they did.

Nyberg wants to see a ban on the collective punishment of children in schools. Nyberg notes that despite the practise being contrary to current legislation and legal principles it is surprisingly common.

“Adults at work would never accept being punished for something which a colleague is guilty of,” Nyberg writes in DN.

Almost half of the schoolchildren interviewed replied that they had at some point been subjected to collective punishment.

The sports movement is not spared Nyberg’s criticism. She argues that there is substantial evidence that children’s rights are not respected and that bullying and harassment is all too common.

Nyberg would like to see more state involvement in the largely independently run sports movement. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child should form the framework to guide the sports movement and thereby increase the influence and input of children and youth.

“Augmenting the children’s perspective means that we should, to a greater extent, base our actions on the experiences and knowledge of children and youth.”

Teachers and staff came out top of the list of what’s good about school followed by friends and school subjects. School food is the item that most students would like to change as well as the canteen in which they eat it. Schoolchildren would like to see changes made to planning, disciplinary regulations and teacher assistants.

The report is based on interviews with 1,060 schoolchildren from 190 contact classes across Sweden and will be presented to the government on Monday March 31st.