From analysis to action
The 4 As provide a good starting point for analysis on the right to education, but it is crucial to move from analysis to action – which might be targeted at the local, district or national level. This might include further analysis and documentation on specific issues, linking to national level campaigning on the right to education or raising awareness and acting locally – encouraging a range of other education stakeholders to act on the right to education.
The Education Rights diagram will enable people to think quickly through the range of issues which make up the right to education, but it will not give space for reviewing specific issues in depth. The group might choose a particular issue and decide to explore it further among themselves, or do some research to find out more about it. This could involve accessing more official information (which may require national level support) or generating evidence at the local level.
Having documented evidence is crucial in campaigning for the right to education, to support any claims you make about the current status of education. It is also an important way to get people to reflect further on their analysis, and can help in building confidence in local knowledge.
There are many different ways to document evidence, as well as different types of information to collect. For example, it can be useful to have information that shows the numbers of children out of school, or teacher:student ratios, or to document a personal testimony, which gives qualitative details about a situation (and can be a useful, and emotive, tool to help people understand and even identify with the rights abuse).
The research and documentation itself can become part of an advocacy process: through involving a wide range of people you can raise awareness and interest in the right to education.
One option in pursuing the right to education is to use the legal system. Groups have successfully upheld the right to education through using constitutional provisions, international education law and other international legislation (such as anti-discrimination provisions). There are various benefits in pursuing this route, including raising public awareness and interest in the right to education, galvanising action across civil society, including the media and challenging the government directly to justify or change its policies. The types of evidence needed for each type of action (whether focusing on the national or international level, education violation or wider discrimination) differ substantially, and it is important to be clear from the outset about the type of action you are pursuing. It is important that these decisions be made at the local level, with support and information from the national level.
Building on their analysis the group will need to identify a specific individual or group of people who are experiencing a specific rights abuse, and are happy for their experience to be publicised nationally. For example, the language of instruction may exclude a minority group who do not speak the language; or there may be no school within 10 kilometres of the community, and no transport links, making it impossible for children to attend school; or the sanitation facilities may be inadequate, leading to parents withdrawing girls from school. It is important to establish whether a violation exists.
In addition to collecting additional information you will also need to think through who you will work with in taking the test case forward. This includes identifying local and national media, education coalitions (or other relevant coalitions – for example HIV coalitions, women’s movements, minority group movements, etc.) as well as lawyers and legislative experts who understand the system and know how to prosecute a case.
Often prohibitive costs prevent children from accessing schooling, even in countries where education is free. In addition to enrolment or user fees, there may be a range of different charges, including: school uniforms, transport, school dinners, examination fees, textbook costs, sports days and contributions to non-teaching staff salaries. Developing understanding about the cost of education can be important in deciding what type of rights abuse is occurring, and who is responsible for the violation.
It is very important to consider carefully whether the right to education has been violated, or if the denial is because of an inability on the part of the state. The right to education is only violated if the State deliberately prevents, or allows others to prevent the realisation of the right, or if the state does not act positively, when able to, to deliver a right. If, however the right is denied because of a genuine inability to fulfil this right (for example there are genuine resource constraints or specific circumstances that the state does not know or control) the violation does not exist. ‘Violations are the result of unwillingness, negligence of discrimination’, and they can refer to a violation of the obligation to respect, protect or fulfil human rights.
If a violation occurs because a state is following a policy, or allowing others to act in a way, which prevents the realisation of the right to education then evidence needs to be collected to show how the policy or action links directly to a rights abuse, and how an alternative action could lead to the realisation of rights.
As well as developing evidence for a test case at national level it is also important to focus on the local and district levels. This is because the rights abuse might be taking place at the local rather than the national level (for example because of lack of interest or through misallocation of resources) and because working collaboratively at the local level can extend your voice and influence nationally. Work might involve highlighting the relevant bits of the constitution and visiting local schools, the district education officer, local authorities or politicians, etc. and discussing with them the constitution and its lack of local-level implementation. Or you might make the constitution available to a local group for local advocacy and lobbying.
It is important to explore the difference between an inability to implement the right, and an unwillingness to implement the right. For example, it might be that funding does not reach the local level, and there are no revenue generation systems. This would suggest that the right is being abused higher up the system and that there is an inability to implement the right locally. Or the funds might be there but be allocated to alternative areas of work or be misused owing to corruption, suggesting unwillingness. Or it could be that the right is being abused at the school level itself, because of lack of interest or capacity on the part of teachers and the school management committee. Depending on the level of analysis you have been able to carry out at local level you may present your case to the local education stakeholders, or involve them in further analysis.
Many people do not know how government works, or who has the ultimate responsibility to deliver education. It is likely that the supporting organisation will need to provide input here, and that much of the focus of the exercise will be on understanding the different roles and responsibilities of different parts of the government. Important government bodies include the different education bodies – for example, the Ministry of Education, the district education office and local government (the precise responsibilities of these bodies will vary from country to country, dependent on the level of decentralisation) and the Ministry of Finance (who is instrumental in determining the overall education budget, which influences every other decision in education). It is also important to understand the difference between officials and political representatives.
Depending on the type of group you are working with at local level you will need to decide how to share information about government functioning – it can be shared as official documentation, or simplified, either in written format through a poster, or shared verbally, etc. The group itself may decide to set up meetings or interviews with different officials and elected representatives to find out more about their roles.
In designing any action it is important to understand who the stakeholders in education are, and what specific responsibilities they have. Through understanding the different roles different people have, or should be playing, you can target your work and decide who to involve and how. Each stakeholder could be assessed in relation to the list of responsibilities, deciding which are relevant. You could repeat or extend this matrix by looking at what each stakeholder contributes to the education system. Different stakeholders include teachers, students, parents, local government, education officials, national government etc. But you may also want to consider lawyers and media – who can influence the education system even if they themselves don’t have a direct stake in it.
The activities focus on building from an analysis of the right to public education, looking at how that right is being denied and then linking to a range of different people who could help in accessing that right. However, it is also important to look at external factors which impact on the public education system – such as the influence of private schooling. Private, or non-public schooling, is delivered in a range of different ways – it includes community schooling, schooling delivered by NGOs or faith groups or by businesses and education trusts. In many areas there is social or peer pressure to send children to private school. This might be because the quality of teaching, infrastructure, instruction materials is better, or because there is no other option, the private school being the only one which exists locally. In some places private schools may be seen as having a higher status, even where they provide a worse quality of education. It is important to understand why children are sent to private school, as a first step to challenging private education.