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Education - Children's Right to Eduction
Authors | Paula Proudlock, Katharine Hall 1
Children’s Right to Education
The South African Constitution, in Section 29 (1) (a) of the Bill of Rights, provides everyone with the “right to basic education”. Section 29 (1) (b) adds that everyone also has the “right to further education”.
Education is essential for children to develop into their full potential. It is considered so important that human rights treaties prescribe that governments must provide free compulsory primary education for children. This is a minimum core obligation of governments in terms of international law.
Article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights provides that everyone has the right to education and, to achieve the full realisation of this right, “primary education must be compulsory and available free to all”. Article 28 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) also obliges the State to “make primary education compulsory and available free to all”.
While providing that the State must ensure that the full right can be progressively implemented over time, international law creates a minimum core of the full right that must be provided immediately (free compulsory primary education). When assessing whether a state is adhering to international law, international monitoring bodies will concentrate first on assessing whether the minimum core has been provided. The State’s provision of sufficient numbers of schools, as well as funding to primary schools to ensure access for all children is considered part of the minimum core that must be provided immediately.
The attendance rate is also a good indicator of whether a state is meeting its minimum core obligation.
In South Africa, the dominant debate is about access to education, due to problems with the design and implementation of the school fee exemption system, with many reported cases of poor children being denied access to schools.
While the school fee debate has been the main concern in South Africa as far as children’s right to education is concerned, there are other issues that have an impact on whether or not children are able to access and enjoy their right to education. These include:
If we want to measure whether children’s right to education is being realised, we need to look at indicators that provide information on availability of education, access to education, quality of education and the outcomes of education. Indicators developed at an international level and in South Africa are all aimed at measuring these four areas. Some indicators reflect purely on the issue of access or availability, while most indicators provide information on all four areas.
The education indicators on the Children Count – Abantwana Babalulekile web site provide information on availability of, access to, quality of and outcomes of education.
The indicators available in this domain are:
The number and proportion of children attending an educational institution
The number and proportion of children living far from the nearest school
Gender Parity Index in schooling
Number and proportion of schools with access to adequate sanitation
Number and proportion of schools with access to water on site
1 Children's Institute