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Kazakhstan: “Investing in inclusive education is crucial for consolidating democracy,” says UN expert

ASTANA (20 September 2011) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Kishore Singh, called on the Government of Kazakhstan to increase financial support to promote inclusive education. “Investing more in this strategic sector is not only an obligation, but an essential step in the consolidation of democracy, and Kazakhstan is fully capable to achieve it thanks to recent economic development.”

“No one should be left behind. If economic growth quickly changed the landscape of Kazakh cities with impressive buildings and industries, only the consolidation of an inclusive education system that pays special attention to marginalized groups and to the preservation of cultural diversity can truly transform the lives of people,” stressed the UN expert sharing some of his preliminary findings* at a press conference in Astana, at the end of his first visit to the country.

“It is critical to monitor practices at local level to ensure that no costs are imposed on parents with low income. Investing in social assistance schemes is also important to further promote the inclusion of those living in poverty,” Mr. Singh said noting that “the provision of education free of charge to everyone in this country is perhaps the main reason for the almost universal enrolment and literacy levels in Kazakhstan.”

Mr. Singh drew attention to the situation of children with disabilities, who are still not enrolled in educational programmes in significant numbers. Among those who have access to education, most are schooled within their homes or special boarding schools, excluded from mainstream education. “Whenever their physical conditions permit, the integration of these children in regular schools is crucial not only to ensure their right to education but also to promote their full integration in society,” he said.

“Migrants and refugees have the right to receive education like everyone else in Kazakhstan. The denial of school enrolment due to residence status is therefore another important concern,” the expert added. “Human rights treaties are clear: nationality or residence status must not be a barrier in accessing education.”

The Special Rapporteur commended efforts to ensure education in different languages and called for enhanced support to minority language schools and to the Sunday school programmes. “One of the strengths of Kazakhstan is its unique cultural diversity and education in multiple languages is essential to preserve and promote such a precious asset.”

Mr. Singh also recalled the importance of promoting quality education. “Developing and implementing national norms for quality in education is crucial to ensure education across the country meets good standards of quality,” he said. “Providing good working conditions for teachers and guaranteeing that they are qualified are central elements in this respect.”

During his eight-day visit, Mr. Singh met with various Government authorities, international organizations and NGOs, and visited schools and universities in Almaty and Astana. As a result of this visit, the expert will prepare a report that will be presented at the UN Human Rights Council in June 2012, describing his main findings and providing recommendations on the enhancement of the education system.

Kishore Singh is the Special Rapporteur on the right to education since August 2010. He is an Indian professor specialized in international law, who has worked for many years with UNESCO for the promotion of the right to education, and advised a number of international, regional and national entities on right to education issues. Throughout his career, Mr. Singh has supported the development of the right to education in its various dimensions and worked to better understanding this right as an internationally recognized right.

(*) Check the full end-of-mission statement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=11398&LangID=E

Learn more about the mandate and work of the Special Rapporteur: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Education/SREducation/Pages/SREducationIndex.aspx

OHCHR Country Page – Kazakhstan: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/ENACARegion/Pages/KZIndex.aspx

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