Mulberry Talks

The Rights of the Child

Our MulberryTalks programme was relaunched for this academic year on Wednesday November 30th, led by guest speaker Ruth-Anne Lenga, Head of Academic Programmes at the UCL Centre for Holocaust Education.

MulberryTalks are interactive seminars designed to bring our school community together in lively intellectual debate. Speakers give a presentation on a topic of their choice, followed by a Q&A session in which students and staff alike are encouraged to participate as actively as possible.

Ruth-Anne Lenga gave a fascinatingpresentation of the life of Dr JanuszKorczak. Korczak is widely recognised asa pioneer of children’s rights. He ran anorphanage in Poland in the early twentiethcentury where his charges were treatedwith the utmost respect and kindness:Korczak placed the rights of the child at the forefront of his practice, drawing up a set of principles which recognised a child’s right to dignity, respect, love and fairness. He instituted a children’s court run by children at his orphanage, where their peers and the adults entrusted with their care could be brought to trial in the event of an injustice. He had a visionary perspective on children who misbehaved or engaged in antisocial or delinquent behaviour, insisting that no child should be branded a lost cause on the basis of his actions. In particular, he recognised a child’s right to be treated with respect, and said that children ‘are not people of tomorrow, but people of today’: a child is valuable, important, and worthy of respect and dignity at all times, not just when they reach adulthood. When the Nazis invaded Poland during the Second World War, and the orphanage was relocated to the Jewish ghetto, Korczak worked against appalling conditions to ensure that the children in his care had their basic needs provided for as far as was possible, and continued to be treated with love and kindness. Despite efforts by his supporters to rescue him from transportation to the Nazi death camps, Korczak refused to leave his children, and was eventually taken to his death in the gas chambers with 250 orphans. Ruth-Anne Lenga traced the legacy of Korczak’s vision to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is underpinned by many of the principles Korczak first articulated. She also showed how Korczak’s principles have influenced the most progressive modern thinking on teaching and caring for children, relating this directly to the kind of teaching and learning we practise at Mulberry. As our Citizenship students begin learning about human rights, and our MUN delegates prepare to debate the treatment of refugee children at the Safe, Sustainable Seas conference, this year’s inaugural MulberryTalk was a rich resource indeed. We would like to thank Ruth-Anne Lenga and the Holocaust Education Centre at UCL for a wonderful start to this year’s MulberryTalks programme.