This programme looks at the attempt of some students from Malone College, Belfast to compile a Bill of Rights with help from their teacher, Mrs McEvoy. The 13 member Human Rights Commission receives submissions from teaching staff, non-teaching staff, governors and pupils and incorporates these into their Bill. The Commissioners hope that the school's principal will adopt the Bill as school policy - this is by no means guaranteed.
The programme begins with a discussion of human rights in Chatsworth Secondary School, Durban, South Africa. One of the pupils, Varusha Joory, describes what she feels are the most important rights for young people.
From the South African classroom we move to a science room at Malone College, Belfast where students are working on their draft Bill of Rights which they hope to get adopted by the school’s governors. We learn about how their Human Rights Commission came about and are introduced to three commissioners, Nichola Kane, Nicholas Tate and Halley Ramsey. The programme follows their campaign and their reflections on the rights and responsibilities of members of the school community and on their journey’s success.
The Human Rights Commission will invite submissions from all members of the school community from students, teaching and non-teaching staff and governors. These submissions will be incorporated into their draft Bill of Rights with the help of Mrs McEvoy and then presented to the Principal Mr Leonard. If he agrees the Board of Governors will probably accept.
A parallel comparative case study within the programme is the students of Sacred Heart College, Johannesburg, South Africa. Even before the end of apartheid this school welcomed students from all backgrounds. It is unusual in other ways - many of its students come from very wealthy backgrounds compared to most South Africans.
We make two visits to the Johannesburg school within the programme and hear from two 16-year old students, Bebe Mothopeng and Nina Bremner Feldman. They explain the situation in South Africa regarding rights and responsibilities and highlight the contradictions between "theoretical" rights as they may be recorded on the statute books and the harsh reality for most people in the country who live in dire poverty.
Towards the end of the programme the work towards the Bill of Rights reaches its climax as the students prepare for the big meeting with the Principal. They already feel that he may have problems with some aspects of the Bill, in particular the wearing of emblems and symbols under the right to cultural expression. This indeed proves a problem in the meeting and is turned down.
The programme concludes with reflections on the importance of the process itself and on the awareness of rights. The experience and significance of Malone is juxtaposed with that of Sacred Heart and Chatsworth Secondary schools.