This November 2019 marks a milestone as the world celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the most widely ratified international human rights treaty. The Department of Education celebrates the essential truth that ‘every child, no matter how small, is a whole person with dignity and rights’ during the National Children’s Month every November, as mandated by Republic Act No. 10661, otherwise known as the “National Children’s Month Act”. This is to commemorate the adoption of the CRC by the United Nations General Assembly on November 20, 1989 and “instill its significance in the Filipino conciousness.”

Officials and personnel from elementary and secondary public and private schools, DepEd officials and personnel from the Central, Regional, and Schools Divisions Offices, as well as partners and stakeholders from the national and local government agencies, international organizations, private organizations, businesses, media and various civil society organizations (CSOs), including The Teacher’s Gallery’s non-profit arm – Inclusion Initiative, gathered for the First National Summit on the Rights of the Child in Education last November 14-15 at The Heritage Hotel Manila, Roxas Boulevard corner EDSA, Pasay City. Children themselves and their parents are also participants of this momentous gathering.

This event is a maiden national gathering of the Department of Education through the Office of the Undersecretary for Legal Affairs with the support of UNICEF, Save the Children, Council for the Welfare of Children, Plan International, Child Protection Network, and Ateneo Human Rights Center.

The Summit aims to reaffirm the commitment of stakeholders to respect, protect and fulfill the rights of the child, as enshrined in the 1987 Philippine Constitution, other domestic laws and rules, and international law, primarily the CRC. It also aims to unpack the various rights of the child in the context of basic education and provide a venue to deepen appreciation of these rights by both the rights-holders and duty-bearers in a rights-based framework of basic education. It served as an occasion to celebrate successes in upholding these rights and identify challenges in their realization to help address them with a whole-of-society approach, which necessarily includes the participation of children themselves as rights-holders.

Leaders and stakeholders stated their commitments in respecting, protecting, and fulfilling the rights of the child. Reaffirmation of commitment were heard from the following honorable guests, followed by a symbolic covenant signing:

  • Hon. Sherwin T. Gatchalian – Senator, Republic of the Philippines and Chairperson, Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture
  • Hon. Roman T. Romulo – Representative, Pasig City, Lone District and Chairperson, Committee on Basic Education and Culture
  • Undersecretary Mary Mitzi Cajayon-Uy – Undersecretary and Executive Director, Council for the Welfare of Children
  • H.E. Maria Teresa Almojuela – Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Nations and other International Organizations in Geneva, Switzerland
  • Mayor Luis “Chavit” Singson – National President, League of Municipalities of the Philippines
  • Dr. Lourdes Sese –  President, Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA)
  • Mr. Reynaldo Antonio Laguda – Executive Director, Philippine Business for Social Progress
  • Ms. Jing Castañeda – Anchor/Host, ABS-CBN and Program Director, Bantay Bata 163
  • Mr. Lars Jorgenssen – Executive Director, Stairway Foundation

In Day 1, the panel discussion focused on the role of duty-bearers in promoting child rights in basic education in a local context.

Separate parallel sessions were in place for the adults and for the students. Adult parallel sessions are focused on the following themes:

  1. Right to survival in relation to basic education
  2. Right of access to basic education
  3. Right to quality education
  4. Right to protection in relation to basic education
  5. Right to participation in relation to basic education

Sessions for Children:

  1. Children’s rights in education
  2. E-Learning course on children’s rights: I Am a Child

Day 2 morning session was dedicated in the presentation of group outputs from Day 1 parallel sessions. Both adults and children showcased their reports and explained their takeaways from their discussions.

After witnessing the Summit outputs, Department of Education Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones started delivering her keynote speech by referring herself as “Lola Liling”. Addressing her speech to the young audience, she said “We are now moving towards quality education. This is your constitutional right. So if you feel that you are not getting quality education in whatever school you are in, it is your right, your priviledge and your duty to call our attention to it as learners and as parents because it is a constitutional right…”

The Summit was concluded with inspirational messages from partners and stakeholders and teachers.