09.12.2011 - UNESCO Office in Dakar

The Right to Education: an empowering right but not fully enjoyed

"Access to free and compulsory quality education is a human right, not a privilege," says Ann Therese Ndong-Jatta, UNESCO's Regional Director for Education in Africa on the occasion of Human Rights Day, 10 December 2011.

"We have to keep reminding ourselves of the key importance of the right to education, as it is not only a human right but also an enabling right which helps the fulfillments of other rights thanks to the empowering impact of education on societies," Ndong-Jatta adds.

Free and uninterrupted education

UNESCO's Basic Education in Africa Programme (BEAP) is an example of the Organization’s efforts to promote the right to education in Africa.

BEAP focuses on access, quality, relevance and equity in an expanded basic education framework.

It promotes a 9-10 years free and uninterrupted basic education of quality, linked to additional two years of pre-school education (ECE).

The programme is country driven and currently numerous African countries are implementing the BEAP concept. They are: Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Tanzania, The Gambia and Uganda.

In Africa some 43 million school-aged children still do not enjoy their right to education. The reasons are numerous including poverty, emergencies, early marriage and child labour.

Status of national legislations in Africa

A recent global study conducted by the Right to Education Project highlights the key relationship between the minimum age of compulsory education and the age at which school children are employed, married and taken to court.

It demonstrates the status of national legislations on these four sometime conflicting areas in all African countries over a period of 18 years. The conclusion is clear: States have not yet fully upheld the right to education in their legislation. Nor have they agreed standards for the transition from childhood to adulthood, either domestically or internationally.

The case of Senegal

Earlier this year, the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education published his report on the right to education in Senegal. The report found that significant progress has been made in the field of education, particularly in respect of universal access to primary schooling and gender parity. He also noted that public funding for education has increased considerably in recent years.

The Special Rapporteur noted, however, that, despite these advances, a great deal remains to be done in order to fully implement the right to education.

He expresses particular concern about the unacceptable conditions existing in the traditional Koranic schools (daaras) and the fact that private schooling is expanding and is doing so in the absence of necessary regulatory measures by the State.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted on 10 December 1948. The Human Rights Day is celebrated annually on 10 December.

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