29 October 2020

On 21 October, the Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Koumbou Boly Barry, presented to the General Assembly (start at 1:44:20) her last report on the interrelations between the right to education and the rights to water and sanitation, including hygiene and menstrual health. The special rapporteur intended to build a holistic approach on human rights, and highlighted that rights to water and sanitation are prerequisites for the efficiency of the right to education.  

Her report points out six key issues: 

  • the lack of legislation and policy incoherence

  • the insufficiency and poorly targeted resources

  • the non-prioritization of the right to education during crisis

  • the insufficient monitoring of the access to water and sanitation

  • the inappropriate design, location and maintenance of facilities

  • the constant discrimination against groups in situations of vulnerability or marginalization. 

It highlights that States ‘fail to commit their maximum available resources to ensuring the progressive realization’ of those rights, even in developing countries. The report is accompanied by a factsheet which provides alarming datas, ‘around 570 million children lack access to basic drinking water services in school, nearly 620 million lack access to basic sanitation and 900 million lack access to hand-washing services’. Moreover, the access to hygiene and sanitation have an impact on school attendance and pupils’ cognitive and concentration abilities, which shows the importance of the interrelations of human rights.  

Today more than ever, the importance of decent hygiene in educational facilities is at the heart of global preoccupations, covid-19 crisis is revealing the increase of inequalities, particularly on the access of water and hygiene minimum standards. However the Special Rapporteur insisted on the point that human rights to water and sanitation must be implemented during and beyond covid-19.  

The report guides States to meet their obligations, and build a coherent policy response that takes into account the 4A’s framework of the right to education. Access to water, sanitation and hygiene minimum standards (water quality and quantity, available toilets, gender inclusivity, clean and safe water drainage and waste, food preparation and storage) is a key point to provide an efficient education system. Therefore, the report stresses states to ‘recognize the right to education and the rights to water and sanitation, including hygiene and menstrual health and hygiene, in their domestic legal framework’.  

Every stakeholders are concerned, for instance private schools should also ensure the interrelation between a quality education and a quality sanitation of their facilities. Moreover, policies must be accountable and inclusive; learners, education workers, parents and communities, must be part of the decision making process. The special rapporteur highlights the need of protection of the most vulnerables that suffer from discrimination. Girls’ education and access to menstrual health should be addressed in curricula, as much as hygiene education. 

The UN Special Rapporteur proposes recommendations for every concerned stakeholders (states, development partners, school community actors, water and sanitation services workers, and civil society).

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