Methods of Teaching Human Rights
METHODS OF TEACHING HUMAN RIGHTS
David McQuoid-Mason, Professor
Faculty of Law, University of Natal
Durban, South Africa
A number of interactive teaching strategies can be used when teaching human rights to a wide variety of people. Not all methods are appropriate for all types of audience, and instructors should be flexible and adapt their teaching methods appropriately where necessary.
In this paper it is intended to briefly describe the following teaching methods:
- case studies,
- the use of community resource persons,
- field trips,
- group discussions,
- mock trials,
- open-ended stimulus,
- opinion polls,
- question and answer,
- ranking exercises,
- role plays, simulations,
- small group discussions,
- participant presentations,
- values clarification,
- visual aids,
- folk stories and songs,
- theatre and printed and electronic media.
During brainstorming the instructor invites participants to think of as many different suggestions as they can, and records all suggestions even if some of them might appear to be wrong or inappropriate. If the answers seem to indicate that the question is not clear, it should be rephrased. Instructors should not worry about ideological conflicts and should accept everything that is suggested. Thereafter, key areas can be selected and prioritised.
|Democracy for All Example: Choose Your Rights
Your country is electing a new democratic government for the first time. You have been asked to draft a bill of rights for the new constitution which will guarantee democracy in the country. When rights are included in a bill of rights they are enforceable by law. Rights can also be used to limit the power of the government. For example, a provision in a bill of rights might state: `The government may not execute people who commit crimes'.
List six rights which you would include in the bill of rights to ensure that your country is democratic.
2. CASE STUDIES
During case studies instructors should invite different participants to read the facts, and then to recognise the problem or issue involved. Participants should be asked to prepare arguments for both sides concerning the particular problem or issue, and then to reach a decision or to make a judgement on the merits of the arguments.
Case studies can usually be conducted by dividing participants into two or three groups and inviting the groups to consider suitable arguments or solutions. A variation might be for one group or set of groups to argue for one side, another group or set of groups to argue for the other side, and a third group or set of groups to give a decision or judgement on the arguments.
Case studies are often based on real incidents or cases, but can also be based on hypotheticals. The advantages of case studies are that they help to develop logic, critical thinking skills and decision-making.
Disadvantages are that sometimes it is difficult for participants to separate important facts from those that are less important, and to separate fact from opinion.
|Human Rights for All Example: The Case of the President and the Civil War
The country is at war because people in one half of the nation said they were withdrawing to set up their own new nation. The war began when the original nation would not let part of the country become independent. During this war, the President makes a rule that if any person discourages someone from enlisting in the national army or engages in any other `disloyal practice', that person may be arrested and imprisoned without being charged with a crime. In doing so he suspends the right of people to be `charged or released'. As a result, over 13 000 citizens of this country are being held in jail without criminal charges against them. The President has decided to re-unify the country at any price, and announces that he `regretfully sees no alternative to making this right less important than victory while the battle rages.'
1. Do you agree or disagree with the President's actions in this case? Explain your thinking.
2. What could happen as a result of these actions?
3. USE OF COMMUNITY RESOURCE PERSONS
The use of community resource persons provides a realistic and relevant experience for participants. Instructors should identify people trained or expert in the particular field under discussion (e.g. judges, lawyers, community leaders, politicians, police-persons, priests, prison officials etc). People who are victims of power (e.g. people who have been abused by the system or voters) can also be used as resource persons and can usually be identified by non-governmental organisations or members of religious communities, women's and youth groups.
Before their presentation, resource persons should be briefed on what to do, and participants on what to ask and observe. The resource person can co-teach with the instructor and this is valuable because as experts in their field they are more likely to be listened to than the instructors. A useful method is to ask participants to role play somebody interviewing the resource person in his or her role (e.g. a judge during a radio interview). Another method is to invite the resource person to play his or her own role in a simulation, or to ask participants to play the role of the resource person and then for the resource person to comment on their performance. An example might be, for instance, to allow a police officer to observe students simulating an arrest and thereafter ask the officer to debrief the exercise. Resource persons are very valuable because they can provide experience and knowledge that is not found in text books.
For a debate the instructor should choose a controversial issue such as abortion, prostitution, capital punishment etc. The participants could be divided into two groups, or small groups for discussion. The groups can then be used to assist the persons on each side who are chosen to lead the debate. The debate should be conducted in such a manner that the participants have an opportunity to listen to the debate, and thereafter to vote in favour of or against the particular proposition.
|Democracy for All Example: Should the Government Limit Accountability?
Your country, Pacem, changes from a single party authoritarian government to a multi-party democracy. The President of the outgoing authoritarian government and her party members are arrested because during their rule they committed cruel political crimes. The transitional government grants an amnesty to the past President and her party members. They are released and allowed to participate in the forthcoming elections. Some people in your country strongly believe that the past President and her party members must be tried for their crimes and should not participate in the elections. Others believe that peace and forgiveness are important for the future of Pacem.
Divide into two groups and prepare to conduct a debate. One group should argue in favour of the amnesty, and the other group argue against it. Consider the following:
1. Was the transitional government justified in declaring the amnesty for political crimes?
2. Does the declaration of the amnesty limit the duty of accountability?
3. If you were in the transitional government, what action would you recommend should be taken concerning the past President and her party members?
Give reasons for your answers.
5. FIELD TRIPS
Field trips are useful because instructors can choose both interesting and relevant places for participants to visit (e.g. prisons, old-age homes, police stations, hospitals, urban poor communities and rural communities).
Participants should be prepared before the visit, and told to look out for specific things. They should also be asked to record their reactions on an observation sheet which should be prepared beforehand, so that the sheets can form the basis of a discussion when they return from the field trip.
Games are a fun way for people to learn because most people, whether they are adults or children, enjoy playing games. For example, the "paper clip" game (to illustrate why we need laws in society, and what sort of laws) is used in Street Law, while the democracy game is used in the Democracy for All programme to introduce students to the `signposts' of democracy. Games involve participants in experiential learning and can often be used to explain complicated principles of law in simple terms. At the end of each game participants should be debriefed so that the principles can be clearly explained.
7. GROUP DISCUSSIONS
A discussion is a planned interaction amongst participants, and should be conducted in order to ensure that some participants do not dominate and everyone has a fair opportunity to express themselves. One method of doing this is to use the technique of "token talk", where, for instance, each participant is given three tokens (e.g. a matchstick or paper clip) and requested to hand in their token to the chairperson each time they speak. Once they have handed in all their tokens they are no longer able to contribute to the discussion.
A method of warming up a discussion session is to ask participants to engage in "buzz-group discussions". This involves asking students to discuss the issue with the person next to them for about five minutes until it seems appropriate to begin a general discussion of the topic. Thereafter participants should be divided into discussion groups.
When conducting a discussion the instructor should link the main points together to extract the necessary principles, and then draw the discussion to an end by emphasising the main points. One method of doing this is to frame key questions which should then be answered during the discussion.
|Human Rights for All Example: Is the Cultural Practice a Violation of Human Rights?
Human rights documents often protect people's rights to take part in their cultures. However, sometimes family practices in certain cultures are criticized as violations of human rights. Read the following situations and decide whether you think human rights are being violated and, if so, whether the government should take action.
1. In the rural areas of a country, most marriages are arranged by the parents, and the two people getting married have no say in choosing whom they want to marry.
2. In some State-run schools of a country, children are taught to disregard some of the cultural traditions they have learned from their parents. For example, the practice of consulting traditional healers when people are sick is discouraged.
3. The cultural tradition in another country is that boys are given further education and girls are not. Therefore the government often spends more money on schools for boys. In addition, parents who have money to send only one child to school usually send a son and not a daughter.
4. In one country many married woman are physically punished by their husbands. Some are beaten. Husbands often claim that it is an accepted family custom to allow them to discipline their wives by beating them if they think that they are not fulfilling their duties.
5. In one country boys are circumcised, in another - girls are circumcised. These are cultural traditions that are required even if there is no health reason for doing so.
6. In a country, it is part of the culture that women do not hold jobs outside the home and do not drive automobiles. Law prohibits them from getting driver's licences.
Hypotheticals are similar to case studies, except that they are often based on fictitious situations. They are more useful than case studies in the sense that a particular problem can be tailor-made for the purposes of the workshop. Furthermore, they are often based on an actual event, although appropriate changes can be made depending on the purposes of the exercise. Hypotheticals are particularly useful when teaching rights in an anti-human rights environment, as reference does not then have to be made directly to the host country, but hypotheticals from foreign jurisdictions can be used.
When dealing with hypotheticals, just as in case studies, participants should be required to argue both sides of the case and then to reach a decision.
|Human Rights for All Example: The Case of the Bomber
A person opposed to the new government has announced the planting of a bomb somewhere in your community. The bomb may threaten people or property. Demands have been made for money and the release of certain prisoners. The bomber has been caught, but refuses to tell where the bomb is.
1. What would you do? If the bomber won't tell without your using force, would you pressurize the person? If yes, how? Would you use violence? If yes, how much? If not, why not?
2. If there is a law against torture and a police officer used it in the case of the bomber, what penalty should be imposed on the officer? Explain.
Lectures enable instructors to cover a great deal of information, but usually provide very little feed-back for participants. In most cases lectures should be kept to a minimum, particularly when dealing with community-based organisations. Ideally, lectures should not last for more than 15 or 20 minutes, and thereafter participants should be engaged in some or other activity. Participants are more likely to remember information if it is learned experientially rather than simply by listening to lectures.
10. MOCK TRIALS
Mock trials are an experiential way of learning, which enables participants to lose their fear of the courts and presiding officers, and to understand court procedures. Mock trials can be designed to involve, for example, 24 participants, 12 for the plaintiff or prosecution, and 12 for the defence. Participants can be taught how to make an opening statement, how to lead evidence, how to cross-examine, and how to make a closing statement. Participants can play the role of witnesses, court officials and lawyers.
Mock trials provide an opportunity to expose participants to live judges who can be involved as presiding officers. In countries where human rights have been at risk, the use of the judiciary in mock trials, conducted by non-governmental organisations, has provided the latter with the necessary status and protection to ensure that their programmes have not been banned by anti-human rights authorities.
11. OPEN-ENDED STIMULUS
Open-ended stimulus exercises require participants to complete unfinished sentences such as: "If I were the President I would ...", or "My advice to the Minister of Justice would be ...", or "When I think of a dictator I think of ...".
Another method of using an open-ended stimulus is to provide participants with an untitled photograph or cartoon and require them to write a caption. Another method would be to provide participants with an unfinished story and to ask them to act out its conclusion.
|Street Law Example: A Case of Spouse Abuse
Late one night you hear screams, bangs and crashes. You look out and see your neighbour Mrs Swart being slapped and punched by her husband as she tries to walk out of the door. Before she can run away Mr Swart pulls her back into the house and slams the door. You hear breaking glass, more screams and running around. You know that Mr Swart has a drinking problem and that this is not the first time he has beaten up his wife.
1. If you were the neighbour what would you do? Would you call the police? If you would, what would you tell them? If you would not call the police, explain why not.
2. Suppose you are a police officer and you receive a call that Mr Swart is beating up his wife. When you and a fellow officer arrive at the Swarts you find that Mrs Swart is cut, bruised and beaten up. Role play you and your colleague talking to the Swarts.
3. Acting as the police, decide what you would do in this situation. Would you question the couple? Would you arrest Mr Swart? Would you take Mrs Swart out ofthe house?
4. Acting as Mr Swart, decide how you would react to the police in this situation. Acting as Mrs Swart decide how you would react. Would you lay charges against your husband? Would you stay in the house? Would you do something else?
5. Suppose you are the Magistrate dealing with the Swart's case. Would you send Mr Swart to gaol? Would you take some other action?
6. What programmes are available in your community to help abused women? Are there places where abused women can go if they decide to leave home?
12. OPINION POLLS
Opinion polls provide participants with an opportunity to record their private views. After the participants have recorded their views they can be asked to share them with the rest of the group, and the instructor can draw up a class composite indicating the views of the group as a whole. For example, participants might be asked who are in favour and who are against the death penalty. Opinion polls allow participants to express their values, beliefs and attitudes about the topic of study. They should then be asked to justify their opinions and listen to opposing view points. Very often opinion polls can be followed with case studies or group discussions.
|Human Rights for All Example: Some Questions on the Death Penalty
1. Taking a stand
Where do you stand on this question? Locate yourself [in] the [appropriate group] below:
[a] Strongly in favour of the death penalty for serious crimes such as murder.
[b] In favour.
[e] Strongly opposed to death penalty for any crimes.
2. Think about reasons on both sides.
What are two reasons you can give to support your position? List reasons which your group can suggest under the headings `in favour' and `opposed.'
3. Clarify your position.
Decide if the stand you took in question 1 above would change if any of the following people and situations were involved:
a. A person who has committed 20 brutal murders.
b. A 15-year-old mentally-retarded person who has killed a storeowner in a robbery.
c. A member of a religious minority which has been persecuted by the government, who has blown up a church where 200 members of the religious majority were worshipping.
d. A 16-year-old political activist who threw a rock and killed a policeman who was unfairly beating up his brother.
e. A corrupt leader who has ordered the killing of many people who have criticized him and his government.
f. A man who murdered his unfaithful wife's lover when he found them together, after she had left him and their children.
g. A woman who was part of a mob that angrily stoned to death someone accused of being an informer for an oppressive government. The woman didn't herself hurt the informer but encouraged others to do so.
13. QUESTION AND ANSWER
When using a question and answer technique instructors should wait for at least about 5 seconds after asking the question in order to give participants an opportunity to think before answering. The questions should be planned to elicit the information necessary for the lesson or workshop. The question and answer technique can be used instead of lecturing, and a checklist of questions should be prepared to ensure that all aspects of the topic have been covered by the end of the lesson. Instructors should be careful to ensure that more confident participants do not dominate the question and answer session.
|Human Rights for All Example: Some Questions on Legal and Moral Rights
1. What is the difference between a legal and moral right?
2. Can you think of a legal right that many people may not regard as a moral right?
3. Give an example of a moral right that may not be a legal right.
14. RANKING EXERCISES
The instructor should give participants a list of items to rank, for example, 5 to 10 different items. Participants should be required to rank competing alternatives, and to : (a) justify their ranking, (b) listen to people who disagree, and (c) re-evaluate their ranking in the light of the views of the other participants. Thus, in teaching human rights participants might be asked to make a list of what they think are the most important human rights, and thereafter to rank them.
|Human Rights for All Example: Choosing Rights for a New Country
1. You have decided to leave the country in which you have been living in order to go with others, to a new country where no people have lived before. In order to set up the best possible society, you and your group decide to make a list of the rights which everyone in the new country will be guaranteed.
1. On your own list at least three rights you think should be guaranteed.
2. Next, working in small groups, share and discuss your individual lists. Then select no more than ten rights you all agree are important.
3. List your group's choices on newsprint or a blackboard so that everyone in the group can see them. Read the rights selected by other groups. Which rights do all groups have? Which ones do only some groups have? Why?
4. Can some of the rights be put together under the same heading? If so, which?
5. Do any rights on the combined lists clash with one another? If so, which?
15. ROLE PLAYS
During role plays participants are asked to act as themselves in a particular situation (e.g as a police officer arresting somebody). Usually role plays take the form of requesting participants to make a decision, resolve a conflict or act out a conclusion.
Participants should act out the role as they understand it, and can make it up as they think fit. They should be given an open-end situation with an opportunity to act out the scenario and reveal themselves in the process. Although the instructor sets the atmosphere, he or she should accept what the participants do. A role play often provides information about the participant's experiences as a story in itself. Observers and participants should be required to analyse the role play and to discuss what happened during it.
|Democracy for All Example: Making Choices on the Village Council Committee
You are a member of a local Village Finance Committee which has authority over thecommunities of Kwafunda and Funamanzi.
a) Kwafunda has schools with few resources and has electricity and water taps. Its residents pay higher rates than Funamanzi. Kwafunda wishes to upgrade its schools.
b) Funamanzi has also inherited schools with few resources, but has no electricity or water taps. Its residents pay less rates than Kwafunda. Funamanzi wishes to instal electricity and water taps.
1. Role play the spokesperson of Kwafunda trying to persuade the Committee to allocate more money to upgrading its schools.
2. Role play the spokesperson of Funamanzi trying to persuade the Committee to allocate more money to install electricity and water taps.
3. Role play the members of the Village Finance Committee making the decision.
Give reasons for your decision.
During simulations participants are asked to act out the role of somebody else by following a given script. Simulations are generally not open-ended like role plays, and are tightly controlled in order to ensure that the instructor's objectives are achieved.
Simulations encourage participants to understand other points of view, particularly if they have to act out a person they do not like, or who has principles with which they disagree. Simulations often require more preparation by instructors because it is necessary to ensure that participants follow the script. Difficulties arise if participants have different reading skills, and it may be necessary to ensure that the role play is audible, visible and situated in a space where everybody can see.
Often it is useful for the instructor to tell participants about the person they are simulating before they act out the scenario, so that they can correctly interpret the actions of the person concerned. This may require a short rehearsal before the simulation is presented. Simulations can be conducted so that they involve everyone (for example, where the simulation takes the form of a mock trial up to 24 participants can be involved, or, if there is a large group of participants, they can be divided into small groups and each small group can carry out the simulation).
How the simulation is conducted will depend upon the type of participants. For example, rural elders may be reluctant to participate in certain role plays that make them feel uncomfortable.
|Human Rights for All Example: Some Questions on Participation
Assume you have just arrived in a newly-formed country. You are eager to get started, to get to work building a new society. You have heard that there are all kinds of possibilities to create good government. Then you overhear the following conversation among a group of your fellow new arrivals:
Citizen 1: `Where I came from, no one cared much about politics and government. We were always too busy with our daily lives. So here I probably won't want to bother with politics either.'
Citizen 2: `That's the way it is in our country...and I never really understood what was going on among the leaders. They made it seem so complicated and made it very easy for us not to bother trying to understand.'
Citizen 3: `Well, it was different in our country: We tried but people who had power wouldn't let us get involved and we were threatened if we did try. So finally we gave up trying to participate.'
Citizen 4: `In my country we had elections and our leaders promised us good government. But it never turned out that way. The leaders used government to get rich All leaders are corrupt.'
1. Role-play the above conversation.
2. What are the four main views expressed by the citizens about participation? Do you agree? Why or why not?
3. What will the four citizens lose by not participating What benefits do you think individuals will receive from participating?
4. What benefits do you think the new country would receive from individuals participating?
5. What are the possible risks or losses involved if one chooses to participate?
6. Weighing benefits and risks, do you think it is worthwhile participating?
17. SMALL GROUP DISCUSSIONS
Small group discussions enable all students to become involved in the discussions. Often students will speak more freely in small groups than large ones. The ideal size of a small group is 5 persons or less. The responsibility of the instructor is to set tasks and manage the activity in the group so that all participants have an opportunity to make a contribution. This can be done by using the following methods:
(a) Brainstorming : This enables everybody who wishes to contribute to have a say.
(b) Buzz-Groups : Here participants discuss issues or problems in pairs and every member of the group will have an opportunity to speak. Thereafter, a record will be kept for the responses by the group as a whole.
(c) Circle Response : Here each member of the group is invited to contribute whereby the contributions move around in a clock-wise direction. This means that everyone has an opportunity to respond and at the end the responses of the small groups can be shared with the larger group.
(d) Speedy Memo : This is similar to the circle response, except that everybody writes down his or her contribution. These are then collected, shuffled and then commented on, one at a time, by the group.
(e) Token Talk : Here, as mentioned before, each member of the group is given, say, 3 tokens which have to be handed in each time the person speaks. Once everyone has had an opportunity to speak there can be a group response and thereafter the suggestions of the smaller groups can be discussed by the large group.
|Democracy for All Example: The Case of Inadequate School Facilities
Assume a girl attends an all female public school. Her school enters a science competition at a nearby school. Her school loses in the competition. After the competition the hosts take the girls on a tour of a school which is an all boys' public school. The girls realise that, in comparison, the facilities at their school are totally inadequate and in some cases non-existent. They are convinced that unless facilities at their school are upgraded they are not going to get an education equal to the boys at the other school.
1. Divide into small groups and design a citizen participation plan of action to change the situation.
2. Is it necessary to form an organization to bring about this change? If yes, how should the organization be structured? Can other existing organizations assist?
3. Should the effort be local or should it also be conducted on a regional, national or international basis? Give reasons for your answer.
18. PARTICIPANT PRESENTATIONS
Participants can be given a topic to prepare for presentation. They can be asked to research the topic formally (eg by consulting book, magazine or journal articles on the subject), or informally (eg by asking their parents what they did during the struggle for liberation in a particular country). Participants can then be called upon to make a presentation to the group as a whole, and thereafter the presentations can be discussed.
19. VALUES CLARIFICATION
Values clarification exercises encourage expression and examination of one's own values, attitudes and opinions as well as those held by others. Thus, participants are given an opportunity to examine their attitudes and beliefs. At the same time they are asked to consider other points of view. This exercise promotes communication skills and empathy for others. Participants should be asked to : (a) express and clarify their opinions, (b) give reasons for their opinions, and (c) re-evaluate their opinions after hearing the opinions of others.
|Street Law Example: Crimes Against Morality
1. Should society protect people from `harming' themselves? Should people be allowed to do what they like with their lives? Why or why not?
2. What is the difference between people harming themselves by taking drugs like alcohol and cigarettes and using a drug like dagga?
3. Should people be punished for having sex as homosexuals or prostitutes if they do it in the privacy of their homes? Why or why not?
4. Should prostitution be a crime? If so should the clients of prostitutes also be punished for being accomplices? Why or why not?
5. Should children who sell sexual favours in exchange for money, sweets, drinks, videos or`a good time' be prosecuted? Why or why not?
20. VISUAL AIDS
Visual aids take the form of photographs, cartoons, pictures, posters, videos and films. Very often they can be found in text books, newspapers, magazines etc. Videos and films are usually available in libraries and resource centres.
Visual aids can be used to arouse interest, recall early experiences, reinforce learning, enrich reading skills, develop powers of observation, stimulate critical thinking and encourage values clarification. Participants can be required to describe and analyse what they see, and to apply the visual aid to other situations through questioning.
Visual aids help to clarify beliefs when students are asked to deal with such issues as : "Do you agree or disagree with the artist's point of view?" or "What should be done about the problem in the picture?"
Puppets have been used very successfully in some countries to illustrate aspects of human rights. For example, in South Africa they have been used in respect of AIDS education, and in India to illustrate the exploitation of women by the dowry system. Puppet shows can be constructed around a particular human rights theme and provide both education and entertainment for participants.
22. FOLK STORIES AND SONGS
Folk stories and songs are ideal vehicles for teaching human rights especially if they are well known to most members of civil society. They are particularly useful when teaching children about human rights.
Exhibitions can be used to provide a visual display of aspects of human rights. They can also be used to convey a large amount of information about human rights by being supplemented by books, pamphlets and speakers.
Both conventional and street theatre can be used to teach human rights. Theatre festivals can be held which present plays with a human rights theme. Theatre has been used extensively to promote AIDS education in South Africa.
Street theatre takes place in public places and commentators can be used to involve the public in the plays and to relate what is happening to certain human rights themes.
25. PRINTED AND ELECTRONIC MEDIA
Newspapers and magazines can be used to educate the public about human rights. In such cases, however, it is usually necessary to ensure that there is some newsworthy element attached to the information.
Newspapersin South Africa have been used to encourage people to become involved in the debate about the new Constitution and to submit suggestions for consideration by the Constitutional Assembly. Likewise they have published extracts from the Street Law books to make people aware of their legal rights.
Radiohas been used very successfully in Kenya to teach rural people in their local languages about their legal rights using a "soap opera" format. It was used in South Africa to encourage members of the public to participate in the constitution making process.
Television has been used in South Africa to popularize the interim South African Bill of Rights and to make viewers aware of the constitutional issues involved by programmes such as `Future Imperfect' and `Constitutional Talk'.
There are a wide variety of teaching methods available to human rights educators apart from the usual lecture method. The lecture is most effective where it is combined with a visual presentation. The most successful teaching techniques however involve interactive exercises, especially those that rely on experiential learning.
The best way to teach human rights is to draw on the experiences of the participants and to relate their experiences to the national, regional and international human rights instruments available to protect them. This will not only assist them to remember the importance of the human rights taught but will also enable them to understand their practical application.
PROFESSOR D J MCQUOID-MASON
FACULTY OF LAW
UNIVERSITYOF NATAL, DURBAN
4001 SOUTH AFRICA