Rights and responsibilities are enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. These rights are the basic rights of every human being. This study focuses on the rights and responsibilities of Grade 3 learners across diverse school settings; I identified five significant aims. The main aim of this research was to use the findings gained to assist and guide educators and all adults working with children in all school contexts and in all grade levels to transform education related to rights and responsibilities to empower children. The aim of the study was to understand the experiences of Grade 3 learners regarding their rights and responsibilities across diverse settings. My objectives were firstly to investigate whether children were educated and informed about their rights and responsibilities as child citizens. Secondly, to explore possible gaps in the knowledge of children’s experience and understanding of their rights and responsibilities. Thirdly, to give children an opportunity to use their voices through participating in this study. Fourthly, to identify the similarities and differences through comparison of the of Grade 3 learners’ experiences of their rights and responsibilities across the three diverse school settings.
The comparison of data sets highlighted challenges and gaps in children’s education and their experiences of rights and responsibilities. It enabled me to draw conclusions that assisted me in making recommendations to supplement and improve children’s understanding of their rights and responsibilities. I believe that the findings from my study contribute to the growing body of knowledge regarding rights and responsibilities education as a strong focus in the Life Skills programme – locally and globally _ and to improving the education of the young child.
Through the comparison of the experiences of the participating children across the three school settings, similarities and differences arose that deepened insight into the main findings. The first finding is that education improves children’s understanding and experience of their rights and responsibilities. Secondly, basic needs have a substantial impact on children’s experience of their rights and responsibilities. Thirdly, the
participating children understood that people have needs and rights, and that those rights must be acknowledged to ensure a good quality of life. I further found that children can be empowered through using their voices and in gaining positive experiences and understanding, which ultimately contributes to raising strong well-adjusted adults.
This research was qualitative in nature using a multiple case study design. The themes and sub-themes that emerged from the data analysis of three diverse schools were then compared. Data gathering occurred through interviews, observation, documents, field notes and visual artefacts. The artefacts consisted of collages, drawings and writings made by the participating children and formed a large part of the data collection and analysis. Data collection took place in the Grade 3 classrooms and school venues made available by the diverse schools where data was collected. The ninety-six (n = 96) participating children contributed the data for this study and I analysed the data to understand how Grade 3 children understood their rights and responsibilities. Grade 3 learners were from three school settings where the participants had diverse backgrounds regarding language, capability, socio-economic circumstances, race, belief and religion. Children were typically between nine and ten years of age in Grade 3.
An emerging conceptual framework created through combining existing theories was utilised for explaining children’s experiences of their rights and responsibilities across the diverse settings. The theories employed were the sociology of childhood, empowerment theory, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and the framework is the arch of human rights.
To empower young children with their rights and responsibilities, adults should listen, educate, communicate, and encourage decision making, accountability and responsibility so that young children will understand their rights and responsibilities as active citizens in their country. This would benefit children to modify and adjust the world they live in.