During the 44th session of the Human Rights Council, a topic which was relevant to most- if not all- countries was the impat on the COVID-19 pandemic on the right to education. This pandemic has represented a major health, economic and social crissi, while also having a great impact on the education system.
The Special Rapporteur, Koumbou Boly Barry, presented her conclusions on three reports: one on the impact of COVID-19 on education, followed by two other country-visit reports on Tunisia and Qatar.
Focusing mainly on the first report on the pandemic, she highlighted two lessons learned. First, that those countries which work alongside trade unions and teachers’ associations showed fewer inequalities in their continuity of education. Second, she called to raise awareness on the interconnectedness of education rights to all other Human Rights, for this reason education should always be kept in mind when discussing other social policies.
Regarding the first lesson, on the inequality of education, Dr. Boly Barry explained that these inequalities were presented prior to the pandemic but have intensified with it. Most countries agreed with the Special Rapporteur on her concern of online learning becoming a more recurrent measure, believing it should be seen as an emergency and temporary tool to respond to the pandemic, but should never replace in-class teachers. Instead, constant dialogue with parents and teachers is needed to develop better state-policies, since they have managed to keep education going despite the circumstances.
For the second lesson, she pointed out the importance of funding of education, so as to reduce inequality, specially for vulnerable groups. She called out for the importance of tackle the origin of the exclusion of education while analyzing the measures taken during and after the pandemic. Countries have implemented good practices during this crisis, such as the creation of platforms for remote learning and teaching, the delivery of paper-based materials to each locality and community where there is almost no access to the Internet, the broadcasting of lessons via national radio and television, and the establishment of forums in which civil society can have a voice. However, there are still many lessons to be learned in this matter.
During OIDEL’s intervention, the organization pointed out the importance of the role of parents, families and communities when it comes to education, particularly during this pandemic. It stressed the need for the international community to acknowledge this role of parents on education. On the other hand, they also called on the international community to support non-profit non-governmental schools, because of their important role in protecting the right to education of many communities.
Overall, all countries agreed on the importance of international cooperation and sharing of good practices to tackle the issue. And while some countries see online education as a new opportunity, most saw it as a temporary measure. It is important to take into account that, with educational centers closed, several children cannot have access to a warm meal, the number of domestic abuses increase and there is a great risk of children, specially girls, to stop attending school altogether.
Report in English available here