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The right to education is a human right. A right is something to which you are entitled, which you can claim. Having a right means that someone else has an obligation. If someone has the right to free education, then the government or school cannot require that you pay in order to access education (except through a broader system of tax collection). Human rights are universal and inalienable. They are inherent. We are born with them. They cannot be given or taken away. Human rights are non-discriminatory, and should not be influenced by sex, ethnicity, nationality, etc. (although special measures, as long as they are reasonable and justifiable, can be introduced to ensure everyone has the equal opportunity to enjoy that right). They are the foundation of freedom, justice and peace, and are the basic standards without which people cannot live a life of dignity. They are proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and have since been reinforced by many legally binding international covenants and conventions, as well as national constitutions.

Although human rights are theoretically universal and inherent they can be denied through violations in practice. People are often unable to enjoy their human rights because of who they are, and where they live. Discrimination is rife in every society, limiting, for example, women’s ability to participate in public forums (or household decision-making), or preventing members of minority groups from receiving appropriate education. Discrimination is an abuse which prevents people from enjoying their basic human rights, and thus undermining the very concept of a universal right.