Buraku Liberation News  January 2000 No.112

Buraku Children and the Convention on the Rights of the Child

Tomoko Nakajima, BLHRRI

(last part of the series)

Initiatives taken by Junior and Senior High School Students

"Buraku-ken" is an abbreviation of "Buraku Issue Work Group" or "Buraku Liberation Work Group." Basically, it is organized by students at junior and senior high schools on their own initiative. Some call it "Kaiho-ken". 

On 3 July 1999, a forum called "Enthusiastic Forum" was held with the participation of members of "Buraku-ken" and "Kaiho-ken" from junior high schools in Osaka. 

The forum was planned, organized and carried out mainly by the children. "Buraku-ken" or "Kaiho-ken" consists of not only Buraku children but also non-Buraku children who are concerned about the issue. On that day, nearly 300 children got together at the forum. 

Following the plenary session where some appeals and attractions were presented, six different workshops were held focusing on different issues, including the Buraku issue and peace. 

A message in the handout prepared by the students organizing the forum said, "Whoever you meet at the Enthusiastic Forum will be your friends who share the same aspirations with you. We feel that we are strong enough to keep up ourselves, when we are with friends who help each other and work together."

The following is one of the appeals made by a student at the plenary: 

"I believe that friends here are all concerned about 'human rights' and 'discrimination.' All of us here will share discussions and activities that we have been doing in our own schools. We will open our minds while we speak and listen to others. The most important thing for you is to be faithful to what you believe. You should not unreasonably adapt yourselves to somebody else. You should not confine yourselves. You should behave and act as you are." 

Children know what is right. They are energetic. They trust human beings. These attitudes should be kept through our entire life. 

In addition, I would like to introduce part of a speech made by a senior high school student in Osaka at a speech contest. She spoke about a documentary video showing a story of a young man who was contracted HIV/AIDS. 

After mentioning about how beautiful the man and his mother were in facing difficulties and discrimination, the student continued: 

"I would like to send my applause to Ryuhei and his mother for their brave decision. I feel as if it were part of my problem, because I am of Buraku origin. I have lived in a Buraku community since I was born. Once, Ryuhei attempted to acknowledge the fact before his friends that he was infected with HIV and he was one of the plaintiffs who brought a case against a pharmaceutical company before the court, accusing them of distributing contaminated blood products. Because of anxiety, he failed to do so in the beginning. Some time later, he encouraged himself and finally told his friends the facts. "

"While seeing this scene, I kept weeping. It reminded me of what I had experienced a year ago when I just became a senior high school student. When we went for a seminar trip, I told my story to my classmates, that is, where I was born and brought up. Because I wanted them to be aware that they had a classmate who was of Buraku origin. I wanted them to think about Buraku discrimination as their own problem. Of course, I needed much courage to tell the facts."

"I was worried that no one would respond to me. I was afraid they would start to discriminate against me. These kinds of thoughts came to me one after another, shaking my decision. Although I believed that my friends would understand me, it was so difficult to start telling my story.

"I was full of fear and uncertainty. After my thoughts went around in circles, I finally told my story. Through seeing Ryuhei in anguish and hesitation, I remembered what I felt a year ago. In my case, I did not receive an immediate response from my classmates, but after the seminar, many friends came to me to honestly tell how they felt. "

"Since then, I have many friends with whom I can share my opinions and sentiments. Also, some friends started to tell me their own stories, such as difficult family situations. To trust friends and tell one's story requires much courage, but it is rewarding. Many of my friends showed their sympathy, and encouraged me. I have learned to open my mind and ask friends for their advice or opinions on whatever I may have as a personal problem."

The student saw herself in the young man featured in the documentary video. This is the attitude of 'sympathy' that Dowa Education has purposely nurtured. Not by pinpointing the differences of others, but by sympathizing with others, we can accept and respect the differences among us. 

Effective Use of the Convention on the Rights of the Child

In 1995, the Osaka Prefectural Teachers Union set up the "Project for the Convention on the Rights of the Child" for the purposes of disseminating the Convention, promoting exchanges of experiences, and making proposals for administrative policies in accordance with the Convention. 

The Project published a report of what has been done, including various programs and actions using the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Kayano Elementary School of Mino City, located in northern Osaka Prefecture, is one of the schools promoting Dowa Education.

The school believes that children should be the ones who take the initiative in the learning process. School buildings were remodeled into a structure which has an open space. This school has actively taken up new learning programs, such as the Integrated Human Rights Learning Program. 

The school teaches children about the Convention through participatory workshops, rather than the conventional teaching methods of reading the text, so that children can deeply understand their rights.

Kagaya Elementary School of Osaka City took up a unique program. Children made a drama script based on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and performed it before an audience. 

As the text of the Convention is very difficult for children to understand, children use "the Convention on the Rights of the Child - elementary version" or "the Convention on the Rights of the Child interpreted by and for Children." Some teachers pick up the contents in the classroom in a more easy-to-understand fashion.

In many junior high schools, students learn the Convention in the context of their own problems, such as 'school rules' and 'abolition of school uniform.' Kaizuka Daini Junior High School, located in southern Osaka Prefecture, is one of the Dowa Education Promoting Schools*. 

The board of the student council played a skit for "the Convention on the Rights of the Child" at the school cultural festival. After the festival, the student council visited the Kaizuka City Council to inform them of their activities and asked the Council what it was doing for the promotion of the Convention. 

Aside from the dissemination of the Convention, many approaches and programs reflecting the spirit and contents of the Convention have been developed. 

The reality is, however, that there are a lot of schools and local governments that are even not aware of the Convention. 

The aforementioned cases are being implemented mainly at Dowa Education Promoting Schools. This represents the fact that Dowa Education is the major driving force of human rights education in Japan. At the same time, it reveals the other side of the fact that a substantial part of society needs to be aware of the rights of the children. 

It is our aim that all children in Buraku communities will be proud of themselves and make a full participation in society without being marginalized. 

In such a society, every child in Japan, regardless of birth, skin color, disabilities, or belief, lives freely with his/her rights and dignity fully respected. As adults, we would like to walk hand in hand for the realization of a world where all children are proud of themselves, free from any threat to their lives, and live happily respecting each other. 

(*Note) :
In Osaka Prefecture, a school which includes a Buraku community in its school district is called a Dowa education promoting school. 
In these schools various measures to intensively promote Dowa education have been taken, such as the assignment of additional teachers for Buraku children, and upgrading educational equipment and facilities. 
On the other hand, Dowa education is promoted to a certain extent also at schools which do not have a Buraku community in its school district.

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