This publication identifies trends in the practice and contribution of UN human rights mechanisms to the protection of education in times of insecurity and armed conflict and offers recommendations on how such protection might be strengthened.
In this report, the Special Rapporteur commends the efforts made by Governments, who were under harsh pressure, to preserve human lives while facing scientific uncertainties.
The health crisis has had numerous implications in all sectors of human life, leading to an economic crisis, as well as to what must be called an education crisis. In this report, the Special Rapporteur analyses the issues she considers to be the most pressing from a human rights perspective. Acting within a human rights framework is indeed crucial to ensure that measures adopted in response to the pandemic do not jeopardize the right to education and do not increase the suffering of the most marginalized.
The Special Rapporteur stresses that while numerous innovative measures have been adopted in all corners of the globe by many governmental as well as non-governmental stakeholders to ensure some continuity of education, they could never have been expected to compensate for the patent global lack of preparedness for a crisis of this magnitude. Past failure to build strong and resilient education systems and to fight entrenched inequalities has opened the door for a dramatic impact on the most vulnerable and marginalized, to which no temporary measure adopted in haste could have fully responded.
The Special Rapporteur makes a number of recommendations in this regard. In particular, a thorough assessment should be conducted to unpack, in each local context, the dynamics at play that led to increased discrimination in the enjoyment of the right to education during the crisis. It should include an analysis of rising inequalities due to the measures adopted to face the pandemic; an investigation into the sustainability of economic and financial models behind education systems, including the consequence of poor funding of public educational institutions; a scrutiny of the role of private actors in education; an evaluation of the adequacy of social protection provided for education workers, including in the private sector; and scrutiny of the lack of cooperation between States’ administrations, educational institutions, teachers, learners, parents and communities.
Furthermore, the Special Rapporteur stresses that the deployment of online distance learning (together with radio and television), should only be seen as a temporary solution aimed at addressing a crisis. The digitalization of education should never replace onsite schooling with teachers, and the massive arrival of private actors through digital technology should be considered as a major danger for education systems and the right to education for all in the long term. A thorough debate needs to take place on the place that should be given to such learning in the future, having in mind not only possible opportunities but also the deleterious effect screens have on children and youth, including their right to health and education.
In the present report, the Special Rapporteur considers ways in which the right to education contributes to the prevention of atrocity crimes and mass or grave human rights violations. Stressing that education has a key role to play at all stages of prevention, the Special Rapporteur underlines the particularly forceful preventive potential of the right to education in the very early stages, before warning signs are apparent. That role is to be linked with the aims of education and the right to inclusive and equitable quality education, as established in international instruments.
The Special Rapporteur, highlighting circumstances under which schools can become tools for division and lay the groundwork for future violent conflicts, focuses on a number of steps regarding the organization of school systems, pedagogy and the values and skills to be transmitted to learners that are crucial in terms of prevention. She proposes an education framework (known in English as the “ABCDE framework”) that encompasses the interrelated features of education needed in order for the preventive potential of the right to education to be fully deployed.