Rosa Maria Torres sends an open letter to all school children
On June 2, 1991, the newspaper El Comercio (Quito, Ecuador) published an open letter to school children written by Rosa Maria Torres. This short, powerful and beautiful text immediately struck a chord across the world; very soon it was published in various journals and bulletins, and subsequently translated into several other languages, including Portuguese, English and French. In 1992, the open letter was included in
"Reflexiones sobre Pedagogia" (Papeles del CEAAL, No. 2, Santiago de Chile). By 1993, the letter was incorporated in the collection
"Rincones de Lectura" ("Reading Corners") of the Ministry of Education in Mexico (which was distributed to all rural schools in the country), and in the same year it was printed on the back cover of primary school textbooks in Bolivia. In 1995, the open letter was published in English by the Education Cluster of UNICEF in Education News No. 11 (New York).
Open Letter to School Children
There are many things you should know about, and I am going to tell you about these things in this letter, so that you know what to do in school, and what to expect from it, from your teachers and classmates.
You have probably been told what you are supposed to do, that is, what your duties are: behave yourself, respect your teachers and classmates, do your homework, keep your notebooks tidy and up to date, come to class clean, be nice to everybody. But here we won't talk about your duties, which you already know, but rather about the things that others must do for you. We are going to talk about your rights.
NO ONE SHOULD MISTREAT YOU BECAUSE YOU ARE A CHILD. No one should pull your ears, hit you or hurt you. No one should make fun of you, put you down, embarrass you in public, tell you to stand in a corner of the classroom, or be rude to you. Children must be treated well, must be loved and respected. You should always go to school happy and without fear. The most important people in school are children, not adults.
NO ONE SHOULD MISTREAT YOU BECAUSE YOU ARE POOR. To be poor is not a sin. Your teacher is probably poor, too. Everywhere in the world, most children are poor, and most poor people are children. Poverty is not your fault. If there are so many poor people, it is because there is injustice. It is our society that is wrong, not you.
NO ONE SHOULD MISTREAT YOU BECAUSE YOU ARE OF A DIFFERENT RACE. All people are different. They are of different races, speak different languages, and believe in different religions. No race is better than the other. No one should make you feel badly because you are black, Indian, or Asian. We all deserve the same respect.
NO ONE SHOULD MISTREAT YOU BECAUSE YOU ARE A WOMAN. Boys and girls, men and women, are equal and have the same capabilities. Don't allow anyone to ignore you and leave you behind, to force you to accept the least, to give you false advantages because you are a girl, to prevent you from developing all your potential. Don't allow anyone to make you believe that women are inferior to men, because it is not true.
NO ONE SHOULD MISTREAT YOU BECAUSE YOU HAVE A PHYSICAL
HANDICAP. A handicap is not something terrible, and it isn't your fault to have one. That doesn't make you an abnormal child. Even children who are blind, deaf, mute, or with a serious disease, can learn if they are given love and care. Children with problems, precisely because they have them, must be treated in a caring, special way.
NO ONE SHOULD MISTREAT YOU BECAUSE YOU COME FROM ANOTHER PLACE. No one should make you feel bad just because you come from a different country, city, or town. Maybe you are a little different from other children because you have a different language or a different way of speaking, or because you have different likes, customs, and ideas. But being different is not a problem. We all have to learn to understand and respect what is different from what we are or have.
NO ONE SHOULD MISTREAT YOU BECAUSE YOU DON'T LEARN QUICKLY. Each child is different and each child learns in a different way. Some children learn more slowly than others. Some are good at some school subjects while others are good at others. If you don't learn fast, maybe there is nothing wrong with you, but with those who teach you and with how they teach you. No one can learn if they do not understand what is being taught, or if they don't find it interesting or useful, or if they are constantly threatened and punished. Don't allow anyone to call you dumb, ignorant, or stupid. If you don't understand something, ask. You have the right to ask questions and to demand that teachers explain things to you and teach you well. That is why there are schools. That is why there are teachers.
Dear children: school was created for children to be together, to play, to learn, and to be happy. If you feel sad or feel badly, there is something wrong with the school, not with you.
Dear children: don't allow people to only remind you of your obligations. Stand up for your rights. Start learning to speak up for your rights now, as a child, so that you defend them even better when you grow up.