A Happening for Voice and Internet in one Act.
A wise old STORYTELLER
A nasty TROUBLEMAKER
With commentary from the CHORUS, sung by the CHILDREN’S BBC WEBSITE.
STORYTELLER: Gather round, children. With the help of our friends the BBC, I am going to tell you a story, nay an epic; an epic of hope long frustrated, of struggle, of eventual victory! It all started in 2001.
Those on the “Rights Now!” march, organised by youth groups, want children’s rights to be taught at school.
It also celebrates the 10th anniversary of the UK’s agreement on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which applies to under 18s.
They feel not enough’s being done to stop bullying, poverty, and racism which affect young people.
And they hope the march to Downing Street, where they’ll present Tony Blair with a birthday cake, will put pressure on the government to create a Children’s Rights Commissioner for England to give young people a voice.
Andy, 14, explains: “There isn’t anyone in the country who is just there for us. We need someone who can stand up for children and young people when the government is making laws and important decisions that affect us.”
TROUBLEMAKER: He’s talking about this story, “Children march for their rights.”Rather begging the question, that headline, isn’t it? I don’t suppose it occurred to anyone to have the headline “Some kids march for rights they think they should have.” Still less “Some kids march for so-called rights their youth groups and trendy teachers have told them to think they should have.”
STORYTELLER: Ahem. All through 2001 the great movement gathered steam. Politically aware kids, angry at how they were not being taken seriously, demanded Ant and Dec as their representatives. Then during 2002 came the first breakthrough: “Kids make history in Parliament”:
One of the six children, 16-year-old James Sweeney, said it was good to be able to talk to the MPs, and might help get a Children’s Rights Commissioner for England appointed.
“I think it will give young people a chance to say what they want to say for once,” said James.
TROUBLEMAKER: For once?
STORYTELLER: (Firmly) By October of 2002 the storm was rising… “English kids want a children’s commissioner.”
Over 90% of kids in England want a children’s commissioner, according to a survey by charity Unicef.
TROUBLEMAKER: As Harry Hutton says, “there is nothing wrong with these children that a prolonged and merciless beating wouldn’t put right.” Wossit say next, then?
Loads of you think not enough is being done for kids and want a special person to fight for your rights.Over 90% of kids in England want a children’s commissioner, according to a survey by charity Unicef.
TROUBLEMAKER: Yeah, sure. Imagine the survey:
Choose ONE of the following:
Option A: a special friend who will listen to your troubles and make life better, OR
Option B: racism and dirty toilets.
Seriously, does anyone really believe that 90% of British youth pined for a commissioner of their very own? Not unless the BBC breeds robot children on a secret farm somewhere specially to take these surveys. True British youth are much too busy playing Super Smash Mario Brothers Crash Team Melee Double Violence Fun on their NintendoBoy DS-es to have ever heard of commissioners or the lack of them.
STORYTELLER: Begone, foul fiend. O children, heed the words of the website:
A commissioner would be a person specially appointed by the government to listen to children, and tell politicians what would make your life better.
It’s hoped that this would help politicians and other adults take the views and rights of children more seriously.
There is already a commissioner in Wales, and others are planned for Scotland and Northern Ireland.
But the government wants to see how well they work before appointing one in England.
Already, though, the Welsh commissioner has complained about problems such as the terrible state of school toilets.
TROUBLEMAKER: How did we live without someone to complain about school toilets?
STORYTELLER: Silence, slave. The United Nations will now speak:
The United Nations has also said it wants someone who will look after kids and said it was ‘deeply concerned’ that no position exists in England.
TROUBLEMAKER: I think someone should mention that Unicef who carried out the survey is part of that same United Nations that is “deeply concerned that no position exists in England.”
STORYTELLER: Meanwhile the child-slaves groaned in their chains. How desperately they yearned for a commissioner! How devotedly did they complete the Children’s commissioner worksheet!
TROUBLEMAKER: Ouch. That’s below the belt. I didn’t expect a worksheet from the BBC…
STORYTELLER: (Diabolical laughter) NOBODY expects the worksheet! How assiduously did the children design their ideal commissioner!
TROUBLEMAKER: Don’t look, don’t look, it’s too horrible!
STORYTELLER: Eat my dust, capitalist lackey! Meanwhile even the evil oppressors of children knew all was not well. “Too many children are ‘at risk.'”
Children are being put at risk because not enough’s being done to protect them, inspectors have warned … But the report, called Safeguarding Children, didn’t recommend creating a special ‘children’s commissioner’ to stand up for young people’s rights in Parliament.
Not all bad
This is despite a survey by children’s charity, Unicef, which said at least 90 per cent of you wanted a children’s commissioner to make sure your views are heard.
But it wasn’t all bad news. The inspectors did find lots of good work going on to protect children, but said things could be improved in many areas.
TROUBLEMAKER: (Somewhat feebly)I say, isn’t that assumption that not recommending a commissioner was “bad news” rather, you know, unimpartia-
STORYTELLER: Nothing could stop the onward march of history. In June 2003 came the joyful news from the brothers and sisters over the water: “Northern Ireland gets kids’ commissioner.”Loud was the cry of England’s children, “How long? How long O Lord?” (In a non-exclusionary and not specifically religious sense, of course.)
And now, even for benighted England, our story draws to its triumphant close. Attended by the dutiful huzzahs from the BBC that it would no longer dream of according to royalty but now more rationally directs towards a newly-appointed official, we at long last read “England kids’ champion appointed.” At last the prophecy of Julian of Norwich that one day a commissioner would come, yea come with his own office and staff and budget, though not with an individual advocacy function, has been fulfilled: All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well. Or, as the BBC put it, “Children in England are finally going to have their voices heard and their rights protected.”
TROUBLEMAKER: (Making a last effort)That um, um assumes that… I can’t remember… I know there was … something about metacontexts … what did all those social workers do before … look, um, what if not all the bullies and dirty toilets and things go away even with a commissioner…
STORYTELLER: Then we’ll appoint a Children’s Czar. Get with the program, scum. You think I haven’t got more where that came from? Wanna vote? (Sotto voce) I just love those survey questions: “Do you agree there should be a children’s champion?” and “Do children need a voice in the Government?” Like the little bleeders are going to say no, hahaha. (Loudly and triumphantly) Wanna hear the loyal cadre acclaim the commissioner?
TROUBLEMAKER: No, no, not that! (A tear slides down his cheek) I – I – I love the children’s commissioner.
But from these bitter truths I must return
To my own History. It hath been told
That I was led to take an eager part
In arguments of civil polity
Abruptly, and indeed before my time