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SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON THE RIGHT TO EDUCATION ENDS HIS VISIT TO GUATEMALA



28 July 2008

The Special Rapporteur on the right to education issues the following press release:

Vernor Muñoz Villalobos, in his capacity as Special Rapporteur on the right to education, has carried out an official visit to Guatemala from 20 to 28 July 2008. He visited the cities of Guatemala and Quetzaltenango. The Special Rapporteur had the honor of being received by the President of the Republic, the Minister of Education, the Vice-Ministers of Education and Foreign Affairs as well as the Human Rights Attorney, the Presidential Commission for Human Rights, the President of the Congress Education Commission and other national and local authorities.

The Special Rapporteur held more than 40 meetings and
met with more than 300 people of the civil society, including indigenous leaders, teachers, students, mothers, educational organizations and representatives of the UN agencies in Guatemala. The Special Rapporteur also had the opportunity to visit primary and secondary schools, as well as the regional venue of the San Carlos University; two jails, an evening school for adults and several educations project managed by non-governmental organizations, as well as other state institutions related to this issue such as CONALFA. Mr. Muñoz would like to express his sincere gratitude to the Government for giving him the opportunity of meeting all the authorities relevant to his mandate.

The visit to Guatemala allowed the Special Rapporteur to confirm that education is the crucial motor to development and considers that it is necessary to undertake efforts to achieve national strategic agreements that are not affected by changes in national or local governments.

The Special Rapporteur expressed his concern on the limited education budget in Guatemala: roughly 2 percent of the GDP (the lowest rate in the region). He applauds the government’s decision of allocating more resources towards education and expects that this decision will be firmly supported by all social sectors, starting by the Congress of the Republic.

In this context, the President of the Education Commission at the Congress committed to a spending increment for 2009 of approximately 0.5 percent of the GDP. The Rapporteur considers this positive trend which should be maintained based on a consensus of all political groups, stakeholders, and civil society organizations in order to revert the deficit tendencies as well as centuries of discrimination and racism against indigenous people and, in particular, women and rural people living in poverty.

The Special Rapporteur stated that the right to education of indigenous people, in practice, has been reduced to bilingualism, even though indigenous cultural material has been included as a substantive issue in plans and programs established years ago. Although the MINEDUC programme includes a Vice-Ministry and an Intercultural Bilingual Education Direction, the great majority of actions are focused on teaching indigenous languages only to primary school students. When offered these are available solely for the first three years of schooling and only in a very limited number of schools targeting indigenous people. There appears to be no space to promote cultures, cosmic visions, arts or ancestral traditions of the first people living in this country.

This reductionist point of view is not just problematic but also threatens the existence of the indigenous people, taking into account the fact that those people are an important part of the population. An intercultural education cannot be limited to just few indigenous populations but it also should to reach other non-indigenous educational centers in order to build a culture of diversity, respect and social commitment.

The Special Rapporteur is pleased to know that intercultural bilingual education is one of the central policies of MINEDUC. However, he also observes that the instrument to implement it (DIGEBI) has scarce resources and its coordination belongs to a Vice-Ministry without any operational capability at the Ministry level. According to the Special Rapporteur, it is underused without any explanation.

The great majority of indigenous teachers are working in primary education due to the general stagnation of secondary education and the serious limitations of growth offered to teachers at a superior level. Notably, the budget assigned to pay indigenous teachers, is much smaller that the budget assigned to other sectors.

According to the CNPRE Education Observatory, during the period 2003-2006, the percentage of enrolled indigenous students only increased by 0.8 % and, although access to primary education has increased last year, the trend is valid for all people living in rural areas (where 70 % live in poverty or extreme poverty).

The exclusion, discrimination and racism that persist in Guatemala have well known historic roots, which mainly affect Maya, Garifuna, Xinca people and the mixed race communities living in rural areas. Within them, children and adolescents are affected the most.

The Special Rapporteur would like to point out that these inequalities are reflected in the education system hampering the full realization of right to education, affecting over one million child workers.

The current legislation, including constitutional law, shows a gap between rhetoric and practice. The constitutional principles about education must be reflected in the daily practice as a framework for action. The Special Rapporteur also expresses his concern about the lack of regulation of a national language law, the failure to create the Maya University and the non-fulfillment of several obligations established under the OIT Agreement No. 169.

On the issue of school access, the Special Rapporteur observed an advance in the numbers in preschool education (48 % in 2006). It is also stimulating to notice an important advance in primary schooling, which must be complemented by bold measures against high desertion rates.

The Special Rapporteur states that the trend towards the privatization in education is against the free education principle established under international law. It also contradicts the Educación para Todos principle and the article 71 of the Guatemalan Constitution. Many families must pay for several school fees from little contributions to the salaries of teachers.

The Conditional Cash Transfers programme fostered by the Government of the Republic is an excellent action, as well as the voucher delivery for students and teachers. The Special Rapporteur welcomes these efforts and calls on the authorities to keep on making such progress.

The Special Rapporteur notes with disappointment that the 80 percent of middle-education is private. The consequence is such that families are not able to provide their children with a basic education due to them living in situations of poverty . The Special Rapporteur is aware that secondary education development faces many obstacles including the lack of teachers and infrastructure. However, to build the scientific, technological and cultural capabilities of a developing country it is necessary to guarantee middle and university education. In this sense, plans for the expansion and strengthening of secondary education and state universities must be supported.

Particularly, it is very important to give priority to revising the curricula of teachers due to their central role in the future of education in Guatemala. The Ministry of education is invited to build on the participatory efforts to improve the curricula considering the views from students, teachers and the educational community in general.

The Special Rapporteur calls for the establishment of the National Council on Education as soon as possible, under the National Education Law 1991. The Council should be able to build on all those agreements made by the Consultant Commission for Educational Reform to ensure the democratization of the educational process by a High Level Body.

The Special Rapporteur calls for more resources to the promotion of better education conditions for students with special needs. The Rapporteur calls on public institutions in charge of the education for students with special needs to gather efforts to overcome the situation of exclusion lived by many.

Finally, the Special Rapporteur has acknowledged the efforts made by the Government in order to regularize the labor situation of a significant number of teachers whose contract of employment was a violation of their labor rights. It is is also an excellent opportunity to strengthen the education in rural areas and for indigenous communities.

The report on the visit of the Special Rapporteur will be delivered at the Human Rights Council in Geneva in 2009.
The Special Rapporteur is an independent expert appointed by the Human Rights Council to help estates and others, to promote and protect the right to education. For further information about the Special Rapporteur’s mandate, as well as for copies of other reports available, please consult the website of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
( http://www.ohchr.org) y (http://www.ohchr.org/english/issues/education/rapporteur/index.htm) 28 July 2008

The Special Rapporteur on the right to education issues the following press release:

Vernor Muñoz Villalobos, in his capacity as Special Rapporteur on the right to education, has carried out an official visit to Guatemala from 20 to 28 July 2008. He visited the cities of Guatemala and Quetzaltenango. The Special Rapporteur had the honor of being received by the President of the Republic, the Minister of Education, the Vice-Ministers of Education and Foreign Affairs as well as the Human Rights Attorney, the Presidential Commission for Human Rights, the President of the Congress Education Commission and other national and local authorities.

The Special Rapporteur held more than 40 meetings and
met with more than 300 people of the civil society, including indigenous leaders, teachers, students, mothers, educational organizations and representatives of the UN agencies in Guatemala. The Special Rapporteur also had the opportunity to visit primary and secondary schools, as well as the regional venue of the San Carlos University; two jails, an evening school for adults and several educations project managed by non-governmental organizations, as well as other state institutions related to this issue such as CONALFA. Mr. Muñoz would like to express his sincere gratitude to the Government for giving him the opportunity of meeting all the authorities relevant to his mandate.

The visit to Guatemala allowed the Special Rapporteur to confirm that education is the crucial motor to development and considers that it is necessary to undertake efforts to achieve national strategic agreements that are not affected by changes in national or local governments.

The Special Rapporteur expressed his concern on the limited education budget in Guatemala: roughly 2 percent of the GDP (the lowest rate in the region). He applauds the government’s decision of allocating more resources towards education and expects that this decision will be firmly supported by all social sectors, starting by the Congress of the Republic.

In this context, the President of the Education Commission at the Congress committed to a spending increment for 2009 of approximately 0.5 percent of the GDP. The Rapporteur considers this positive trend which should be maintained based on a consensus of all political groups, stakeholders, and civil society organizations in order to revert the deficit tendencies as well as centuries of discrimination and racism against indigenous people and, in particular, women and rural people living in poverty.

The Special Rapporteur stated that the right to education of indigenous people, in practice, has been reduced to bilingualism, even though indigenous cultural material has been included as a substantive issue in plans and programs established years ago. Although the MINEDUC programme includes a Vice-Ministry and an Intercultural Bilingual Education Direction, the great majority of actions are focused on teaching indigenous languages only to primary school students. When offered these are available solely for the first three years of schooling and only in a very limited number of schools targeting indigenous people. There appears to be no space to promote cultures, cosmic visions, arts or ancestral traditions of the first people living in this country.

This reductionist point of view is not just problematic but also threatens the existence of the indigenous people, taking into account the fact that those people are an important part of the population. An intercultural education cannot be limited to just few indigenous populations but it also should to reach other non-indigenous educational centers in order to build a culture of diversity, respect and social commitment.

The Special Rapporteur is pleased to know that intercultural bilingual education is one of the central policies of MINEDUC. However, he also observes that the instrument to implement it (DIGEBI) has scarce resources and its coordination belongs to a Vice-Ministry without any operational capability at the Ministry level. According to the Special Rapporteur, it is underused without any explanation.

The great majority of indigenous teachers are working in primary education due to the general stagnation of secondary education and the serious limitations of growth offered to teachers at a superior level. Notably, the budget assigned to pay indigenous teachers, is much smaller that the budget assigned to other sectors.

According to the CNPRE Education Observatory, during the period 2003-2006, the percentage of enrolled indigenous students only increased by 0.8 % and, although access to primary education has increased last year, the trend is valid for all people living in rural areas (where 70 % live in poverty or extreme poverty).

The exclusion, discrimination and racism that persist in Guatemala have well known historic roots, which mainly affect Maya, Garifuna, Xinca people and the mixed race communities living in rural areas. Within them, children and adolescents are affected the most.

The Special Rapporteur would like to point out that these inequalities are reflected in the education system hampering the full realization of right to education, affecting over one million child workers.

The current legislation, including constitutional law, shows a gap between rhetoric and practice. The constitutional principles about education must be reflected in the daily practice as a framework for action. The Special Rapporteur also expresses his concern about the lack of regulation of a national language law, the failure to create the Maya University and the non-fulfillment of several obligations established under the OIT Agreement No. 169.

On the issue of school access, the Special Rapporteur observed an advance in the numbers in preschool education (48 % in 2006). It is also stimulating to notice an important advance in primary schooling, which must be complemented by bold measures against high desertion rates.

The Special Rapporteur states that the trend towards the privatization in education is against the free education principle established under international law. It also contradicts the Educación para Todos principle and the article 71 of the Guatemalan Constitution. Many families must pay for several school fees from little contributions to the salaries of teachers.

The Conditional Cash Transfers programme fostered by the Government of the Republic is an excellent action, as well as the voucher delivery for students and teachers. The Special Rapporteur welcomes these efforts and calls on the authorities to keep on making such progress.

The Special Rapporteur notes with disappointment that the 80 percent of middle-education is private. The consequence is such that families are not able to provide their children with a basic education due to them living in situations of poverty . The Special Rapporteur is aware that secondary education development faces many obstacles including the lack of teachers and infrastructure. However, to build the scientific, technological and cultural capabilities of a developing country it is necessary to guarantee middle and university education. In this sense, plans for the expansion and strengthening of secondary education and state universities must be supported.

Particularly, it is very important to give priority to revising the curricula of teachers due to their central role in the future of education in Guatemala. The Ministry of education is invited to build on the participatory efforts to improve the curricula considering the views from students, teachers and the educational community in general.

The Special Rapporteur calls for the establishment of the National Council on Education as soon as possible, under the National Education Law 1991. The Council should be able to build on all those agreements made by the Consultant Commission for Educational Reform to ensure the democratization of the educational process by a High Level Body.

The Special Rapporteur calls for more resources to the promotion of better education conditions for students with special needs. The Rapporteur calls on public institutions in charge of the education for students with special needs to gather efforts to overcome the situation of exclusion lived by many.

Finally, the Special Rapporteur has acknowledged the efforts made by the Government in order to regularize the labor situation of a significant number of teachers whose contract of employment was a violation of their labor rights. It is is also an excellent opportunity to strengthen the education in rural areas and for indigenous communities.

The report on the visit of the Special Rapporteur will be delivered at the Human Rights Council in Geneva in 2009.
The Special Rapporteur is an independent expert appointed by the Human Rights Council to help estates and others, to promote and protect the right to education. For further information about the Special Rapporteur’s mandate, as well as for copies of other reports available, please consult the website of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
( http://www.ohchr.org) and (http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/education/rapporteur/index.htm)