An international project and a special democratic experince for the human kind
PROGRESS and QUESTIONS
Our international project „Extension of Human Rights to Education“ has been running since January 2017 and is developing from month to month. This opens up new perspectives and opportunities.
Now, through the contact with ministries of education in different countries, the level of awareness of the project can possibly increase significantly worldwide. Colleagues from Côte d’Ivoire, Benin and Venezuele have already become active in this regard or are starting an initiative.
We manage to ensure internal communication and the flow of information through the use of different languages and journals. In addition, there are always new developments that reach all colleagues almost daily through messages or emails.
It was very important to always stay in interaction and be creative. This has made an unbroken dynamic possible over the years.
And yet the following questions keep coming up, both with new and old or potential partners: What do we actually want in this project? We are coming together, but why? What is the goal and how is it to be achieved? Who are „we“ actually?
The objective is described as follows:
„The project „Extension of Human Rights to Education“ is conceived by the project initiators as a council in which different social actors who are committed to extend the human right to education worldwide can jointly work out the intersections of their positions in this regard, with the aim of being able to submit a „Declaration on Expanding the Human Right to Education“ to the UN for a vote. The project focuses on Article 26 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, the amendment/addition to which is to be made in the sense of a progressive extension.“ (http://politeknik.de/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/PROJECT_DOSSIE_EN.pdf, Page 5)
This requires a stable, unshakeable international platform. The democratically excluded part of humanity should be represented in it. This is the first phase of our project.
In this phase, everyone can freely express their opinion and set impulses about the discussion of content. However, the main task is to enable representativeness and to form a unity.
The 2nd phase of the project envisages that these ideas will then be written down as a common position, which implies a lengthy discussion.
Questions can be discussed as to whether the project, with the aim of modifying Article 26, is only meant to send a signal, and can it do so at all? Can we get a vote at the UN General Assembly? What happens if our joint declaration is rejected? How should we then proceed with our strong, globally established legitimacy base? Should the vote be positive, would this result already be seen as a guarantee for the realisation of progressive change in the countries? Should the declaration formulate a concrete control mechanism to ensure realisation? In the case of a positive or negative vote, is the UN in its existing form the right address? (Below is a citation from the text of our colleague Prof. Raquel Melo)
Other fundamental questions also need to be asked: Can human rights be definitively formulated? Do we have to take the biological nature of man or the social characteristics of the societies he founded as a starting point? Whose interest and what image of humanity underlies the UDHR?
There are certainly many more questions that will emerge over time. This is a fundamental task for all project partners.
What makes the project seem difficult is that the project coordination does not approach the partners with a prefabricated concept in terms of content and ask colleagues to merely support this concept. Such an approach would run counter to the intention of the project to be an engagement by excluded people for excluded people representing their interests. The project is designed in such a way that it cannot function without the active participation of the large part of humanity excluded from democratic decision-making processes. Therefore, the concept rightly sends the following message: Please form your own unity together!
What then are the positions of the partners?
We tried to answer this question exemplarily in the symposia in 2016 and 2018, in the first book publication of the project as well as in the series of articles „Ideas and Recommendations for Extension of Human Rights to Education“, which was published in PoliTeknik from 2015.
We would also like to ask you as partners to elaborate your positions soon and send them to us as articles so that we can publish them. In this way, the main features of the discussions will become more and more apparent.
What ideas or problems have the authors highlighted so far in these publications regarding the expansion of the human right to education? Let us look at several citations together:
Roberto Franklin de Leão
National Confederation of Workers in Education (CNTE) – Brazil According to the terms of the UN-UDHR, everybody has the right to education, which should be free and accessible to all, regardless of age, gender, and place of origin. But what kind of education should be offered to the people? Does it meet the needs of children, adolescents, youngsters, and adults? Such questions take us beyond the universalization of school enrollment – which is very important –, and highlights one fundamental aspect: the quality of the education we have and aspire to. (http://politeknik.de/p7077/)
Student Representative Council – Wits University – South Africa We find ourselves in an era of vastly expanding advancements in all facets of life. Technology, Medicine, Agriculture, Engineering and the Arts are all progressing quickly but many developing countries are being left behind due to the lasting effects of colonialism, global capitalist economies which dictate a narrative of oppression and political systems which are designed to exclude the voice of the masses. The only way to remedy this is by educating our people and providing them with specialised skills to fulfil their personal potential and to contribute to reaching the potential of the country.
It is therefore necessary for the rights in Article 26 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights to include further education and training in an attempt to address the issues outlined above. (http://politeknik.de/ p7755/)
Federation of Secondary School Teachers OLME – Greece The right to education cannot be exercised in a social vacuum. It is therefore necessary that education systems be supplemented by a series of social measures and support services which, as far as possible, ensure balancing advantages in favor of the weaker social strata and promote the unimpeded and efficient operation of the educational institutions. (http://politeknik.de/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/PROJECT_DOSSIE_EN.pdf)
Prof. Dr. Eva Borst – Germany
We are dealing with three very striking issues within the framework of human rights on education: (1) the question of poverty and social insecurity; (2) the question of the difference between general education and vocational training, and (3) the very essential question of the quality of education. (http://politeknik.de/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/PROJECT_DOSSIE_EN.pdf)
Francisco García. General Secretary. FECCOO Spain, Pedro
Badía. Secretary of Education Policy. FECCOO Spain. Miguel
López Melero (Universidad de Málaga), Miguel Recio (MEFP),
Grupo de Investigación Acción Cooperativa (Universidad de
Málaga y Proyecto Roma), Begoña López Cuesta (FECCOO)
This is humanity’s greatest challenge: to build a world that is peaceful, de-mocratic, prosperous and fair. To this end, an equitable, quality education that benefits generations today and in the future is indispensable. Only in this way will we be able to return to the coherencerequired to honour the ethical and moral principles and values that arise from complying with Hu- man Rights. Hence, my proposal for Article 26 of the Declaration of Human Rights would be:
1. Everyone has the right to public education. Fair, quality education shall be free in all its forms, respectful of the particular nature of every person and not mere instruction. Elementary education shall be compulsory and free. Also, any adult, woman or man, will be entitled to accessing quality education, be it secondary or higher education, according to their social requirements and different human capabilities. The State must guarantee the means and resources necessary to enable the right to education of all citizens.
2. Education shall be directed to the full development of human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
3. Parents have a right to receive information about how public education is the one that shapes free people who are open to dialogue, cooperative, collaborative, cultured, democratic, fair, self-sufficient and peace-loving. The State must guarantee that the public education model reaches all citizens without exception but it is citizens themselves who must become aware and fight for their rights and defend the common good. The common good exists and must be defended: Living in a better, happier place. (http:// politeknik.de/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Extension-of-human- rights-to-education.pdf – Page 132)
Student Federation of the Universidad de Chile – FEch
Given this, it is impossible for us to maintain that, under an idea of universal human right, measures that end up excluding a large part of the population can be promoted and guaranteed. And this discretion with which States can make the right to education effective is not only limited to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but is also replicated in other human rights treaties, such as the Covenant on Human Rights Economic , Social and Cultural ; because these are ambiguous, they do not clarify what type of measures empower a State to guarantee the social rights to which it is committed and this leads to the fact that many governments operate de facto against the universality of law. (The original text in Spanish has been translated into German and now into English; available at the following link: http://politeknik.de/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Extension-of-human-rights-to-education.pdf – Page 191. For the original text, please
contact PoliTeknik: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Prof. Dr. Vernor Munoz
former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education
However, never before so many educated people had killed so many others. Never before we have caused so many damages to earth. Never before we have had so many exclusions. So the main question now is for what is education? What is the purpose of education? We have increased the number of children in schools but our problems, our ecological problems, our violence problems have also increased. So what is the reason of education? What is the purpose of education? I think that it is the main answer that we should reach nowadays. Mainly because we should understand that the right to education is not only a universal right but it is also a precondition for building of ecology and joy and dignity in our world. So it is absolutely useless having a lot of knowledge, having a lot of skills without any sense of dignification of life. So we should recall what is the education about. And some of the key answers to that question remain in the international human rights law. According to the article 26 of the universal declaration of human rights and the article 29 of the convention of the rights of the child and according to what the committee on the rights on the child set, we know that education goes far beyond formal schooling and embraces the right to a specific quality of education and a broad range of life experiences and learning processes that enables people individually and collectively to develop their personalities, talents and abilities to live a full and satisfying life within society. Education cannot be reduced to schooling processes and quality goes far beyond performance and schooling. (http://politeknik. de/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Extension-of-human-rights-to-education. pdf – Page 119)
Kumar Ratan – India
In the new socio-economic reality of the world, the UDHR stands in need of amendment. It should catalyse new strategies and renewed focus by the State to ensure that education becomes a fundamental human right. The quality of education has to become an essential element of the right to education. The UDHR should recognise ‘quality education’ as a human right instead of simply education as a human right. For this the quality of teachers is important and this quality is directly proportional to the quality of working conditions of teachers. (http://politeknik.de/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Extension- of-human-rights-to-education.pdf – Page 102)
Mary Cathryn Ricker
American Federation of Teachers (AFT)
Executive Vice President
Today, human rights and the right to education are attacked on a daily basis worldwide. Despite the gains that have been made, our collective human and civil rights work is far from complete. The UDHR’s education declaration must be refreshed and modernized to establish more ambitious and speciic goals, with speciic reference to the rights of girls to education, as well as the rights of all children to early childhood education and secondary education. (http://politeknik. de/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/DOSSIER-BILDUNG.pdf – Page 6)
Soon the drafted letter for the Minister of Education of Côte d’Ivoire will be sent. We will then receive an appointment for our delegation. This delegation will be present and speak on behalf of all of us. Colleagues from Benin, Tunisia, Guinea and Haiti would like to participate. Whether we can make the trip possible for all these colleagues, we will then decide together based on our resources.
However, it is clear that we are many organisations. This could mean only a minimal use of resources for each organisation. There will be more similar delegations in the future.
In addition, we would like to recall what we might wish from states:
• This project is a longterm process. Sooner or later an exponential rising will be a natural result of its’ continuous engagement.
• In this international engagement the democratic excluded part of humanity tries itself out as a legislator, as a representative of its own interests undistorted from the outside.
Citation from the article by colleague Prof. Raquel Melo:
„Lindgren Alves (2013, p. 24) draws attention to the Western character of the UDHR, highlighting its Enlightenment heritage, like that of the UN itself. The author states the following:
Adopted in this way, without consensus, in a forum then composed of only 56 States, Western or “Westernized”, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was not, therefore, “universal” even for those who participated in its creation. Under these conditions, those who did not participate – the vast majority of today’s independent States – had more reason to label the document as a “product of the West”. (Alves, 2013, p. 24, free translation).
The mention of merit as a form of access to higher education in article 26 is an example of the liberal and western character of the UDHR. Meritocracy, as an expression of the universalist ideology, which supports the modern world-system (Wallesrtein, 2007, p. 38), makes invisible the discrimination and exclusion of groups based on color, origin, gender, social class, disabilities and other markers, hindering their access to human rights, such as education, while legitimizing the privileges granted to those who ascend to certain positions supposedly by “merit” (Wallerstein, 2007, p. 40).
Universalism, operationalized, among other ways, by meritocracy, is important for the formation of a qualified technical staff capable of ensuring the efficiency of the capitalist economy and, therefore, the accumulation of capital – which is the ultimate purpose of the system (Wallerstein, 2007, p.40). However, this meritocratic universalism is preceded by an anti-universalism (Wallerstein, 2007, p. 40), which ensures that universalism only applies to a specific privileged group of people while other groups are subject to subordination and exploitation inherent in a system based on capital accumulation and inequality. […] Considering the cultural and epistemological hegemony of the Western liberal paradigm reproduced by modern institutions – school, church, family and international institutions such as the UN – it remains to be seen to what extent the voices of peripheral groups and individuals on the matter will be taken into account by the Organization and by its member states“. (http://politeknik-international.org/pi4505/)
*This Recapitulation was prepared and sent to all project
partners in May 2022 and has been edited for this publication.