Statement by Gauri Pradhan, International Coordinator of LDC Watch, delivered at the International Conference on Private Education and Human Right

International Conference on Private Education and Human Rights
September 7, 2017
Kathmandu Nepal

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This is my pleasure to be a part of this very important international conference on the privatization of education and human rights. I thank you the organisers for giving me an opportunity to share my thoughts on the theme and extend my message of solidarity to its grand success.

As we all know education is the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, beliefs, and habits. Education is a path of liberation. It is self-realization and service to the people and society. It helps promote peace, human rights, and justice in society. That is why education has been regarded as the widest road leading to the solution of all kinds of problems that exist in the world today.

Human rights, which are based on the principles of universality, indivisibility, and interdependence, are protected through internationally agreed legal standards and States have committed to upholding them through treaties. States guarantee these rights without discrimination of any kind on the grounds of race, color, sex, language, religion, origin birth, or other status. Many international human rights instruments have also ensured the right to education of all and made the state parties of these instruments responsible to respect, protect, and fulfill their obligations in action.

Generally speaking, the right to education includes free & compulsory primary education, available and access to secondary and vocational education that is progressively free; and equal access to higher education for all, especially progressively free for individuals from deprived community and disadvantaged groups. A good and meaningful education system offers all children a child-friendly learning environment which in turn helps to promote human rights, peace, and justice in society.

Globally 58 million primary-aged children do not attend primary schools; 38 million of them are from Africa and 53% are girls. More than 226 million children do not attend secondary school in developing countries. Girls are less likely to be in school, whereas boys are more likely to repeat grades or drop out altogether. The situation in Least Developed Countries is even more grave. For instance, in Africa (where most LDCs are located) there are places where more than 50% of the population below the age of 18 are illiterate.

But, there have been visible improvements as well. For example, Ethiopia has increased girl’s enrolment rate in primary education from 40% in 1999 to more than 95% today. Similarly, LDCs like Nepal, Burkino Faso, and Malihave also improved markedly in girl’s education and improved their status from ‘worrisome’ to ‘progress’ in recent decades.

The main topic of this conference Privatisation of Education and Human Rights is a highly debated topic. Those that are in favor of privatization of education claim that there is a perceived improvement in the quality of education and an expansion of educational choices with private education. It is believed that it increases the participation of parents in their children’s education.

But, the opposing view is that private education creates walls instead of building bridges among children. Besides, it also promotes ‘shadow system’ of education and unethical practices concerning private tutoring for mere economic benefit. Privatization of education excludes children living in poverty and widens the gaps of disparities in educational opportunities between different socio-economic classes. And this indication is not affirmative in building a new society with the spirit of peace, harmony, and fraternity. Ultimately this will create a complex situation as it hinders the State’s obligation to respect, protect, and fulfill the human rights of children.

It is time that we recognize that education is one of the most powerful and proven vehicles for sustainable development. Equitable access to quality and child-friendly education will contribute in significant reduction in poverty and ultimately increase GDP per capita income. Therefore it is urgent that the equity gap brought about by privatization of education is narrowed. For this public investment in education needs to be increased. It has been found that lack of trained teachers and the poor condition of schools are the major reasons for low quality education in public schools in LDCs. Public education should be strengthened through teachers’ training, creating a proper educational infrastructure and child friendly environment. Respective governments, development partners, and the UN system should focus on protecting children’s right to education during prolonged conflicts.

Development partners should also increase Official Development Assistance (ODA) targeted towards building proper educational infrastructure. Education is not a privilege but a fundamental right of every child. This basic principle should not be undermined when education is commercialized. Private sectors inject the much-needed funds which is inadequate, especially among LDCs, and also tend to add quality to education. However, the profit motive in the private sector should not be allowed to create a divide between the rich and the poor such that only children from the rich have access to quality education.

A proper mechanism must be in place to ensure the right to education for every boy and girl. Therefore, I, on behalf LDC global CSO platform and human rights community, would like to firmly urge to all the governments, UN system development partners, and other concerned stakeholders to help establish proper regulatory and monitoring systems to ensure all public, and private, and religious institutions provide a quality, meaningful and relevant education to all without any discrimination.

Let every child in the world enjoy his or her right to free and quality education.

I wish you all the best for all of you in achieving the declared goals of this international conference!

Thank you!

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