Geneva: first report of the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education

In the framework of the 53rd session of the Human Rights Council, which is taking place in Geneva-Switzerland from 19 June to 14 July, on Tuesday 27th, Farida Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, presented her first report to the Council.

Shaheed reaffirmed, in the light of the sufficient existing international standards signed by the vast majority of the world’s countries, that it is the obligation of states to respect, protect and fulfil the right to education of all people living in their territories. Assuming this obligation necessarily implies adopting all necessary measures and allocating all possible public resources to progressively and appropriately guarantee the full exercise of this human right. Any regressive measure is unacceptable, says the rapporteur in her report.

Within this framework of reflection, Farida Shaheed affirmed that this is a right to lifelong learning that can only be guaranteed by public education systems and that it is the direct responsibility of States to provide education as a public good and to fulfil their role as guardians of efficient, equitable and effective management and financing of public education accessible to all.

The importance of the right to education, progress and challenges, in presenting his report on the right to education, he said that the right to education was a right to lifelong learning and free quality education, regardless of circumstances, location or other identities. There has been a shift from promoting an equal right to education to promoting the right to equitable and inclusive education. This is not an easy task for governments. Inclusion means changing educational content, teaching methods, approaches, structures and strategies to overcome barriers so that all students can enjoy an equitable learning experience and an appropriate environment. The world faced many challenges in ensuring the right to education for all. Many challenges inherited from the past persist. Exclusion, assimilation, segregation, discrimination, poor quality, mistreatment and lack of security remain striking, impeding the right to education for many. International instruments need to be robustly implemented, with effective guidance tools and strong monitoring mechanisms.

However, this does not seem to be what is happening and in many cases, it would seem that the direction is the opposite and that some education systems perpetuate segregation, exclusion, segregation, omitting the fact and the concrete mandate that this is a human right of all people and that this right implies fundamental education, early childhood care and education, higher, technical, vocational education and all this, regardless of age, sex, gender, beliefs, social status and, in short, any factor leading to any kind of discrimination.

Finally, she says in her report, “the right to education requires states to provide public, free, quality education for all. This position is supported by the wording of the relevant legal provisions (for example, the freedom of parents to choose public schools for their children other than those established by public authorities is meaningless without universal access to public education), and by international and national mechanisms, reflecting international consensus. Public education remains the main conduit for the provision of education in a large majority of States and is often constitutionally protected. The Human Rights Council itself recognised the importance of investing in public education”.

Farida Shaheed, a Pakistani national, was elected as Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education on 1 August 2022 and is the Director of Shirkat Gah, a leading gender justice organisation in her country. Between 2009 and 2015, she was also Special Rapporteur in the ambit of cultural rights from 2009 to 2015. She is the fifth person to assume this responsibility, which was created in 1998 and assumed, at that time, by the Croatian Katarina Tomasevski.

Pressenza IPA