One random day during my 11th year at school I had just finished P.E. and was feeling thirsty and a little dehydrated. Since I had forgotten my water bottle that day I decided to go to the canteen to ask for some. The school’s canteen is run by a private company, gaining profit from the students’ purchases, so once I saw that a bottle of water was rather expensive I decided to ask if they could provide me with a (free) plastic cup of water. It astounds me that the bottles of water at the canteen are unfairly priced. I feel their price should be reduced as a bottle of water is currently 90p for 330ml , which is far too expensive and not affordable for all. I believe the company should NOT be gaining money from selling water and the fact that you need to pay for the water is already ridiculous, so it being an unaffordable price seems absurd! They said they weren’t allowed to provide a plastic cup of water. So I asked them if they could provide a plastic cup alone so that I could fill it at one of the various water fountains located across the school (bearing in mind that these water fountains do not provide any plastic cups or any alternative to use as a container and there is no other way to access the water). They said they weren’t allowed to do this either. I wanted to try and find more information about their policy and this has been an ongoing problem. Now, a year later, I wanted to investigate this issue a little more. I found out who usually deals with these matters associated with the school’s canteen and questioned why the water is not accessible, publishing the following statement which was, supposedly, given to the business manager:
“The human right to water entitles everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses. This is a school and water is vital for health and is essential for learning. If a child has forgotten their water bottle and has no money, water is not accessible to them. This may lead to dehydration which isn’t convenient, especially in schools as it leads to poor concentration. Despite the fact that there are water fountains, the water is not accessible. There are no plastic cups available and I have an issue with this. I have been told they’re available in the nurse’s office, however I did not know this earlier. I believe there should be at least a notice stating where plastic cups are available if a child does not have a water bottle or any other alternative. The school has failed to communicate this and has not taken this matter seriously.”
*I should have also mentioned the fact that a child may suffer from an underlying condition and the lack of availability to water may cause dangerous circumstances as water is essential to a person’s health.
Due to my profound interest in human rights I thought I could provide my voice and raise this issue, I provided my name and email however my efforts did not pay off as the business manager had not replied to me. After a month of receiving no reply I decided to ask the business centre if my issue had been acknowledged, they said they would question his logic and then get back to me but they did not. A week later I yet again went upstairs insisting that this matter would be acknowledged and they said that the business manager had passed my message onto the head of sixth form. This is another thing I have an issue with: the school’s lack of communication. The school’s policy is not clear, I haven’t seen any of this information written and this isn’t good enough – members of staff are constantly misinformed and this irresponsibility is hypocritical as they expect students to act responsibly. This issue surprises me very much as the school promotes drinking plenty of water however it ironically fails to provide it . An example of where this is promoted is in our school planner.
Yes this realisation stemmed from one of my own personal experiences, however I am not acting out of self-interest – I’m seeking to protect the rights of those, mainly in the lower years who may be more forgetful, more anxious, less fortunate in terms of finance, health and more. I shall continue to fight until this problem is solved and I intend to carry on questioning similar issues. The school may eventually say that human rights, unjustly, do not apply to children in their defence, however, some individuals in the sixth form (which is connected to the lower school) are already 18, meaning that the Human Rights Act 1998 does apply to them. There is also a provision for children under the ‘UN Convention on the Rights of the Child’ (Article 24) which states that Children have the right to good quality health care – the best health care possible – to safe drinking water, nutritious food, a clean and safe environment, and information to help them stay healthy. The UK recognises a right to water and a right to sanitation as elements of the right to an adequate standard of living in Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) of 1948 has also implicitly recognised the Human Right to Water and Sanitation.
Something that the school does not manage to understand are the reasons as to why these sort of issues are important. This issue is extremely important as it affects the health of the students. Every human being has a basic right to water and if no container is provided, it is not accesssible. They tried to lecture me on the fact that they are available from the nurse’s office, however this has not been published. Due to the fact of people being unaware of this and it not being advertised, the water is not accessible as no one has been able to acquire this information. The school should initiate one (or both) of the following actions: 1) provide free plastic cups or any other alternative container which is appropriate at either the canteen or at the water fountains themselves 2) advertise where containers are available from so that students are aware that they’re accessible. The head of sixth form said he would pass my suggestions onto the head of the lower school so hopefully this issue will be resolved.
Thank you so much for reading this!
P.S. By the way, children have the right to freedom of expression; this right includes freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child’s choice.
(Article 13 – The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child)