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UN Special Rapporteur: education is a crucial tool to combat severe abuses of human rights

Education International welcomes the latest report by Koumbou Boly Barry, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to education, focusing on the ways in which the right to education contributes to the prevention of atrocity crimes and mass or grave violations of human rights.

In her report transmitted to the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, the Special Rapporteur stresses that education has a key role to play at all stages of prevention. However, “despite fruitful dialogue on the issue, education is accorded neither the importance nor the funding that it deserves and that is needed if it is to perform the roles it is assigned”, including peace, acceptance of the “other”, respect for cultural diversity, the participation of all in the development of society and an education that is adequate and adapted to the specific needs of people in their own context. 

 

Education framework

The Special Rapporteur proposes an education framework (the “ABCDE framework”) that encompasses the interconnected features needed in order for education to truly deliver on its preventive potential. Education should promote acceptance of self and others; a sense of belonging to society; critical thinking; diversity; and the capacity of learners to feel empathy for others.

“The right to inclusive and equitable quality education must be taken seriously and be prioritised if States and other stakeholders are serious in their commitment to prevent violent conflicts, atrocity crimes and mass or grave human rights violations,” Boly Barry highlights.

 

Pedagogy

Concerning pedagogy, she emphasises that it is not only what is studied that matters, but also how it is studied and learned.  Schools should not reproduce authoritarian, patriarchal or other models of hierarchy and subordination, but rather should become open spaces for debate, conflicting arguments, individual and collaborative creativity, analytical and critical thinking. They also should be learner-centred, participatory and humanistic. Pedagogical and didactic methods should be developed with a view to cultivating a democratic culture in the classroom that is based on respect for cultural diversity and acceptance of others.

 

Values

Because the reform of curricula and didactic methods cannot be satisfactory if values remain fundamentally intolerant and negative, Boly Barry insists that specific values must be transmitted through education, in line with UN standards. These include the recognition of other human beings as a individuals with different views and equal rights, recognition of the necessity to combat prejudice, stereotypes and hate speech, and positive values, such as honesty, humility, kindness, forgiveness and compassion.  

 

In conclusion, Boly Barry reiterates the obligations of States to respect, protect and fulfil the right to education of everyone within their jurisdiction in accordance with the right to equality and non-discrimination and to provide free, public and relevant education of the highest attainable quality to everyone within their jurisdiction as effectively and expeditiously as possible, to the maximum extent of their available resources.