Right to Education for All

Worldwide, more than 120 million children between the ages of 6 and 15 have either never started school, or have dropped out. Millions of children are denied an education because of conflict and crises.  In more than 30 countries, schools are misused by armed groups; an estimated 29 million children are out of school because of conflict.

With the ratification of international human rights treaties, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child, governments made commitments to ensure education for all children and youth. However, discriminatory laws and practices keeping children out of school still persist. A new report from Human Rights Watch found that high school fees, corporal punishment, conflict, child marriage, segregated classrooms, discriminatory practices against minority groups, and unsanitary and inadequate conditions in schools are barriers that keep millions of children and adolescents out of school.

The Human Rights Watch report is based on research carried out in over 40 countries and covers almost two decades. It shows that government monitoring mechanisms, the lack of accountability for children dropping out of school, and the lack of zero-discrimination policies are among the factors contributing to governments’ failures to provide compulsory and free quality education.

The report further shows that the global focus for universal primary education (MDG 2) has, in some cases, unintentionally led to lower financial - and less political - attention for secondary education. When children cannot attend secondary school, they are at a higher risk of early marriage and/or pregnancy and of being exploited for child labor.

The shortfall between what governments promised two decades ago, and the educational reality children are experiencing globally has resulted in an “education deficit.” This undermines the fundamental human right to education, but also children’s right to quality of life. Education can break generational cycles of poverty by enabling a child to learn skills and knowledge needed to address life’s challenges.

With the establishment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September 2015, governments promised to work together to ensure inclusive and quality education for all by 2030. In this new area of sustainable development, governments must work together to end the “education deficit” by ensuring that all children worldwide have access to quality primary and secondary education, and end the discrimination that millions of children face today.

For more information:

The Human Rights Watch. (2016). The education deficit: Failures to protect and fulfill the right to education through global development agendas.  

UNESCO eAtlas of out-of-school children: http://tellmaps.com/uis/oosc/

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/

Convention on the Rights of the Child: http://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/crc.aspx

Anne Bauer