Friday, 18 October 2013

Raising Awareness on Statelessness: Schools Project

My name is Christina van Kuijck, I’m currently studying 3 masters (Human Rights Law, Criminal Law and War Studies) and started my internship at the Statelessness Programme in September 2013. The reason why I applied for it was because I previously follow the course “Nationality, Statelessness and Human Rights”. It had such a big impact on me, that I wanted to contribute to the world in this area.

I’m an intern now for 6 weeks and each week I’m more positive I made the right choice. Besides preparing the Global Forum on Statelessness, which will be held in September 2014 in the Hague, my tasks include raising awareness on statelessness. One of the projects I’ve been busy with is the School Project for primary and secondary schools. After preparing the materials on nationality and the link with statelessness, we had the opportunity to give a lecture on the 4th of October at the “Onze Lieve Vrouwe Lyceum” in Breda (the Netherlands) to children of the third grade (3 VWO, 14 year-olds). A researcher and another intern from the Statelessness Programme – Zahra and Sangita – accompanied me.

When I arrived there, I was very nervous. I have previously given private lessons to people between the age of 10 – 21, but never to an entire class of 30 persons. I was also a little bit afraid that the children would have difficulty following a whole class in English. I didn’t need to be afraid or nervous at all. The students were really enthusiastic and active in the lecture. When they absolutely didn’t know how to explain themselves in English, they would use Dutch.

We started the lecture by asking the students what nationality is. Though none of the students had another nationality than the Dutch one, some of them had relatives that do have another nationality. We explained them that nationality entails both identity and membership. By asking the students different questions with the nationalities they mentioned (for example Germany and Italy) they were able to understand what identity means. It was interesting to see what national stereotypes came out - one of the students stated, for instance,  that "Italian women are very bossy". Afterwards the students gave some examples of forms of membership – one of them raised the school as a kind of "club" that they are members of, showing that they were one step ahead of us since we wanted to ask them what their do's and don'ts  (rights and duties) were as members of the class and the school. The next question was: what if you have no nationality and what is the problem? The students immediately answered: you don't have any rights and any duties. This paved the way to move on to the next question: the explanation of statelessness.

Zahra took over from here: She showed a video of stateless persons and the students were very interested in what they saw. Zahra asked the students whether they knew how they acquired nationality, and all of them gave the correct answers: the land bond through birth or naturalisation, and the blood bond through relatives or marriage. I was also impressed at how the students intuitively suggested that a foundling should acquire nationality by one way or the other, for example by giving a foundling the nationality where he was born, or found, or the nationality of his (adoptive) parents. After explaining naturalisation, most of the students stated that they would want another nationality because it would be easier for them in the future to find jobs (and because according to them, the Netherlands is too cold and small for them). Zahra then arrived at the loss of nationality, by offeringdifferent real -life examples.

Sangita took over to explain the regulation of nationality in the Netherlands and talked about an article in the newspaper of a stateless person in their own country. The students were quite shocked that this also happens in their own country. Finally, Zahra showed the international regulations and explained two cases of statelessness – the Rohingya in Myanmar and Bidoon in Kuwait.  

The students showed a lot of concern towards the problem and understood everything correctly. The teacher, Jos van Schilt, was very enthusiastic and gave us some positive feedback and has offered to help with the materials and different exercises for the School Project.

It was a very positive experience for me, soon we will be able to teach upper secondary classes and compare the materials that we have used and the way students respond to the topic. Currently I’m working with Jos van Schilt on a paper about nationality and statelessness education as one of the responses to statelessness. I hope to raise awareness all over the world with the School Project, and finish the materials before the end of the year in three languages (English, Spanish and Dutch). I’m very happy with this internship, as it gives me an opportunity to explore the law in a different way, not only by receiving education, but also by giving it to others.

Christina van Kuijck – intern at the Statelessness Programme

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