UK must do more to create equal treatment and opportunities for children
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. The UK sees itself as a country in which everyone’s human rights are upheld, but this is untrue - racial discrimination occurs on a daily basis.
‘Migrant’ and ‘refugee’ have become charged words because of the discourse of politicians and the media. People perceived to be “not British” have been falsely portrayed as burdens on resources rather than equal human beings.
Such narratives make discriminatory views and language seem acceptable, and put refugee and asylum-seeking children, and children from visible or audible ethnic minorities, at a greater risk of bullying and harassment.
In schools, hate crimes and incidents rose by 89% during the Brexit campaign. Incidents reported to Bullying UK include a six-year-old girl being told by a classmate she cannot take the school mouse home because he doesn’t like people with brown faces, to violence involving weapons, with one pupil too frightened to return to school.
When investigating racism and xenophobia in schools, Britain’s Youth Parliament found that racism and religious discrimination have become normalised among young people, with many viewing racist comments as “banter”.
This must change. Whether intended or not, such behaviour raises certain races and cultures as superior, and victimizes individual children.
Recent surveys have found that teachers lack the confidence, training, and support to address racism in the classroom. Unguided, they currently struggle to discuss race, religion, tolerance, and unity with their pupils.
They overwhelmingly support the introduction of lessons promoting racial tolerance into the curriculum.
Children need to have more of an education on racism, and the greatness of Britain’s multiculturalism.
Whilst schools are important, we must also play a role in discussing and demonstrating the value of diversity and unity.
In a society where racial discrimination is embedded and on the rise, we are the front line for calling out racism and promoting equality.
Schools often treat the behaviour of black children and white children differently. Black Caribbean children are around three times as likely to be permanently excluded than White British pupils. Children who are permanently excluded rarely find places in mainstream schools again.
Children are also denied future opportunities because of their skin colour and ethnicity. Black and minority ethnic students achieve as high grades as their white counterparts but see lower admission rates into top universities. Their unemployment rates are also nearly double that of white Britons because of discrimination in the recruitment processes.
The Government must take the lead in ensuring that, across all schools, no child is held back or denied the opportunity to succeed because of their skin colour, ethnicity, or religion.
At the 2001 United Nations Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, world leaders signed a document that stated that:
'We firmly believe that the obstacles to overcoming racial discrimination and achieving racial equality mainly lie in the lack of political will, weak legislation and lack of implementation strategies and concrete action by States, as well as the prevalence of racist attitudes and negative stereotyping.'
It is time to hold the UK government accountable for their lack of action. Conducting a review is not enough. We need solutions and a sustained effort to tackle the burning injustice of racial discrimination.
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.