Month: October 2023

Kids who Bully and Kids who Get Bullied Learn “¡Soy Digno!”

Why do Kids Bully?

Keep that question in your mind. Before I tell the story of bullying and how it stopped, let’s back up.

Roció Valdez lives in a small town in Paraguay.

There are five schools in the town and she approached each of them to tell them about the Human Dignity Curriculum (HDC). Of these, one gave her permission to present the HDC to the Director of the School and its teachers.

She received permission to teach the HDC to the grade three students and then the pandemic hit.

“At first, students were sent home and school activities were canceled. Then, despite the fact that the school was not allowed to do in-person instruction, the students were told they could go to school on Tuesday and Thursdays to do the HDC.”

I ask Roció what it was like, teaching a room full of grade three students, in masks, in an empty building?

“The reaction of the kids was really great; they were excited about going to the school for a special class and they never missed a class because of how excited they were. We didn’t do certain games or activities in the lesson plan in order to follow the rules regarding social distancing.”

Kids Getting Bullied is Nothing New

At one point, Roció noticed a couple of students bullying another student.

“They were making fun of her because of her skin color.”

“They called her quemadita which means burned.”

“I told the kids not to say this, but they wouldn’t listen.

Then, when we talked about the value of human dignity and that we have human dignity even when we have differences, by the end of that lesson, the tone in the room had changed and the students were noticeably more collaborative.”

Why do kids bully? Because they don't know that they and others have human dignity.

Students hold signs from the curriculum that read: “I have the power to think and choose” and “I am worthy.”

A Hunger for Human Dignity

Fast forward to 2023, when the same school asked Roció to teach the HDC to the grade four students.

“Post-pandemic, students across Paraguay are experiencing increased difficulty with reading and writing.” Due to the popularity of the program, the school gave the HDC a two-hour time slot, from 9-11am every Tuesday and Thursday.

At first, the teachers gave a lot of homework to students to make up for the time lost to the HDC class. However, since the HDC class was only for one month, the kids were still happy because all they wanted was the HDC and so they didn’t care about other homework.”

Despite the generous two-hour time slot, the HDC class would still sometimes run for three hours, because “the kids would skip their break and eat in the classroom to keep going,” said Roció. “We covered a lot of material quickly!”

When Roció missed a class because she was sick, the following class, the kids were sad and angry with her.

“One kid asked me, why, why, weren’t you there? And then the students told me not to miss another one.”

Bullying Comes from Ignorance of Human Dignity

Remember the question, why do kids bully? The HDC covers a lot of important ideas that kids don’t usually get to talk about in school. “The questions are interesting and deep… so, kids are allowed to show their feelings and be sincere. They like it.”

“There is a lot of poverty, and many of these children are living in a situation where both their parents have left the country to try to find work.

In these families, the kids are taking care of their grandparents. Most kids are sensitive to the topic and don’t want to talk about their parents at all.”

In the lesson on Heroism, the heroes the fourth-grade students selected were their grandparents, their teachers and Roció.

At the end of the class, one student told Rocio that thanks to her, he knows he has value.

I ask Rocio if the kids are surprised to learn that they have human dignity? There is a pause. She is crying.

“Yes. Of course. At the end of the curriculum, all of the kids cried that the classes were over.”

“HDC gives them back an identity.”

Because, in the end, the kids understood what human dignity is and that they were really valued. And it made them so happy.”

Listen to educators talk about the Human Dignity Curriculum!

Kids in Paraguay are learning they have human dignity, and this combats bullying in schools.

Clare Halpine, Director of the Human Dignity Curriculum, 2023.

Little House, Big House (Nyumba Ndogo, Nyumba Kubwa)

Kisumu Juvenile Remand Home is a place where children in conflict with the law are committed by court until their matters are finalized. Some are orphans, others are from situations of neglect, living on the street.

At the Remand Home, they are safe, they have accommodation and food, and now they also know that their human dignity is intrinsic and can’t be given or taken away.

Beginning in April, every other Tuesday, the young people of Kisumu Remand home would gather in small groups, or, little house “Nyumba Ndogo” and big house “Nyumba Kubwa”, to take the Human Dignity Curriculum (HDC), taught by a facilitator.

“Some of these children haven’t been in school for quite some time, and so, based on their level of literacy, they received instruction from either the Kindergarten or Grade 7 level of the Human Dignity Curriculum (HDC),” explains Cynthia Maingi, Director of World Youth Alliance Africa, the organization behind the program.

“They come into this place that is safe, they find themselves among other children and encounter adults who care about them. As a result, they build rapport quickly with the facilitators. Whether it’s a week or three months, sometimes… the facilitators know it’s a limited time to impact this person’s life.”

The homes make do with what little resources they have.

The cost of the Human Dignity Curriculum was covered by World Youth Alliance, but facilitators translated each lesson into Swahili for delivery to the children.

To meet the challenges of the low literacy level, they got creative, bringing salt, lemons and sugar into the room to explain the idea of the human senses.

Gathering plants from outside, they explained the lesson on the Hierarchy of Being, highlighting the powers that plants, animals and humans share, and the two powers that are unique to humans: the power to think and the power to choose.

Most children’s homes in Kenya try to implement programs aimed at teaching life skills, such as financial literacy or dealing with issues of peer pressure.

“Of the partners we’ve worked with…” begins Cynthia, before re-stating:

ALL of the partners we have worked with, say that what stands out for them is that the Human Dignity Curriculum starts with the question: who am I?” 

For the children of Kisumu Juvenile Remand Home, they may think the answer to that question is confusing, embarrassing, or worse.

“Yes, many of the children feel they’ve been rescued from situations that are so unbearable,” says Cynthia, who has worked with various children’s homes in Nairobi.

Learn more about this K-12 curriculum that changes lives!

“HDC teaches children  that even if you’re going to this Remand Home, that doesn’t negate the fact that you have the same value as every other person.”

At the end of one of the lessons in the Grade 7 Curriculum, the lesson concludes with a True or False quiz that rings true to the images capturing HDC scholars diligently at work, residents of the Kisumu Juvenile Remand Home:

“Society does not give us human dignity; every human being has dignity, whether society recognizes it or not.” True.

If we live in difficult circumstances with a lot of distress, we still have human dignity.” True.

Explore the curriculum in depth and contact us!

Clare Halpine, Director of the Human Dignity Curriculum, 2023.