NEW YORK (23 October 2017) – More than a quarter of a billion children around the world are not being educated, leading to huge levels of illiteracy and discrimination and adding to tensions in society, a UN human rights expert has warned.
It is imperative for States to reach all children and bring them into schools, the Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Koumbou Boly Barry, told the UN General Assembly in New York.
“Discrimination and exclusion are keeping millions of children out of school, and almost 750 million adults and youth are illiterate,” said Ms. Boly Barry, presenting a report on the barriers to education for the estimated 263 million school-age children who are currently not being educated.
“Out-of-school children often face discrimination due to their economic or geographic circumstances, or because of their cultural, linguistic or ethnic background,” the Special Rapporteur said. “Others have become migrants or refugees, or have had to flee from their homes but remain within their own countries.
“No child should be excluded from school for any of these reasons,” she added.
Inclusive education means providing a shared, safe learning space for all learners, regardless of their personal circumstances, the Special Rapporteur stressed.
“Diverse schools teach tolerance and respect at the earliest opportunity, and can go a long way to addressing many tensions we see in societies around the world,” said Ms. Boly Barry.
“States must not only ensure that schools provide equal opportunities for everyone to access education according to their ability, but must also ensure they receive the support they require to succeed once they are in school.
“Governments must ensure that their legislation and policies eliminate discrimination, and include principles of equity and inclusion at all levels. These must apply to public as well as private schools, to ensure everyone plays their part,” she added.
The Special Rapporteur urged Governments to take positive steps including affirmative action programmes, innovative teaching methods, and full collection of data breaking down the impact of inequality on different groups within society.
States should also join forces with international organisations, development banks and donors to find ways to ensure that all children enjoy the right to education, and not just those who are easiest to reach, she added.
“In order to meet the education-related Sustainable Development Goals, we must bring in the children who are the hardest to reach,” Ms. Boly Barry said.
Ms. Koumbou Boly Barry (Burkina Faso), was appointed Special Rapporteur on the right to education in 2016. As a Special Rapporteur, she is part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
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