Birth registration and registration of persons in general hugely affect children as they get affected when their parents lack registration documents as it makes the child not able to apply for registration documents and this can render them stateless. The Nubian Rights Forum identified that all interventions in the country in terms of birth registration and other forms of national registration campaigns never gave audience to the children’s voices. There was a need to amplify these voices as well as empowering them on the importance of documentation and how they can pass the message to their parents.
In October 2016, NRF carried out the first citizenship inter-school competition for schools within Kibra. This competition aimed at empowering students on citizenship knowledge. This competition targeted both primary and secondary schools. The main tools of conveying the message were through inter-school debates and a creative writing and drawing competition that provoked thinking and research by the young minds. The school empowerment program was carried out in both primary and secondary schools, in the primary schools, NRF focused on classes 6 and 7 while the secondary schools involved all classes from Form 1 to 4.
This project highly depended on the NRF citizenship paralegals who took the students through weeks of intensive review of the basic laws on nationality and Chapter Three of the Constitution of Kenya 2010. These sessions gave the students the basic knowledge of the nationality laws as a foundation of more research on statelessness on the side of the students. The students were also given copies of the Constitution to act as a point of reference for the competition.
The entire program is normally carried out each year showcasing the statelessness and citizenship competitions in the schools. The school debate competition was the highlight of the school competition with some of the topics debated being:
- National Identity Card is a matter of survival
- Vetting should be nationalized
- Fines and penalties are effective ways of ensuring birth certificates and identification cards registration
- Birth registration should occur immediately at birth
- Statelessness should be solved legally not politically
- Men and women should be given equal rights to confer nationalities to their children
- States should automatically grant citizenship to children born in their territory
It is always impressive to listen to the arguments of high school children arguing on very complex issues that not many adults could discuss. This is what we see as empowerment after mentorship by the paralegals, the students understood the issues around nationality and statelessness.
In 2017, the competition attracted more schools than expected; this time round the number doubled whereby 16 secondary schools and 10 primary schools participated unlike in 2016 where there were only 8 secondary schools and 4 primary schools. The school empowerment sessions were carried out in both primary and secondary schools.
In primary category, NRF focused on class 5, 6, 7 and 8 while in the secondary category they involved all the classes, that is, from Form 1 toForm 4.
Nubian Rights Forum paralegals, as usual, were signed 4 secondary schools and 2 primary schools for the empowerments sessions and also to prepare the students for the competition. This empowerment involves the paralegals going to the assigned school’s sessions where students were taught on statelessness, Nationality, and citizenship. This impacted knowledge on them and it also helped them during their research especially the new schools who participated in the competition for the first time. The paralegals did not only go to the schools for the empowerment sessions but also to give a brief introduction about the organization’s mission and vision for solving statelessness in Kenya.
The school debate competition was the highlight of the school competition with some of the topics debated in the secondary school program included:
- Vetting is a discriminatory practice
- Having a birth certificate should automatically grant citizenship
- Lack of nationality documents does not mean that you are stateless
- Minority groups are at more risk of being stateless
- Stateless population belongs to the minority groups
- Lack of national documentation does not mean that one is stateless
- Vetting is a discriminatory practice
- Parents fingerprint should be a requirement in the application of identification cards
- Both parents names should be included on the birth certificate
- Nationality should be granted on jus soli not jus sanguine
The school program is one of the successful activities in our project, it is also a great opportunity for the paralegals reaching out to the young minds in the community as they represent the future generation. The continuous school program will assist us to reach students and teachers as they represent a larger number in the community. This can also be another form of outreach whereby the entire community will get empowered through the teachers, students with their parents or guardians.
Through the support we have been getting from our partners, it will be important to expand the school program for schools to higher institutions such as colleges, universities and other technical institutes to at least make sure the entire community understands chapter three of the constitution for them to able to advocate for their rights and also towards ending discrimination of the minority groups in Kenya.