Fund what is fair: Right to education campaign for Latin America and the Caribbean

 

The Latin American Campaign for the Right to Education has launched this week a campaign for the correct financing of Sustainable Development Goal 4 on the occasion of the 72nd United Nations General Assembly, that is taking place this week too. Fe y Alegría, a Jesuit education network present in 21 countries, 17 of them in Latin America and the Caribbean, joins this mobilization to underscore the importance of tax justice for guaranteeing the human right to education.

The statement of support for this campaign summarizes the four main demands of the campaign, including investment in education in national and ODA budgets and fiscal justice.

The Education Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) promote the changes needed to ensure the right to inclusive, equitable and quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all people, as set out in international commitments.  The international community committed itself in 2015 to increasing the allocation of resources to make this right real. Low and middle income countries must allocate at least 6% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 20% of their total education budget, while donor countries must allocate 0.7% of GDP to Official Development Assistance.

The International Federation of Fe y Alegría, a member of the Latin American Campaign for the Right to Education (CLADE), joins the first edition of the Latin American Week for the Right to Education, under the slogan ¡Financien lo justo! For free public education for all, launched by CLADE, which will take place from September 18-24, 2017, within the framework of the 72nd General Assembly of the United Nations.

Fe y Alegría expresses its commitment to free, inclusive public education as a fundamental human right and demands that States fulfil their responsibility as guarantors of the right to quality education for all.

WHAT DO WE DEMAND FROM STATES AND THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY?

  • A MINIMUM OF 6% OF GDP IN EDUCATION AND A MINIMUM OF 20% OF THE PUBLIC BUDGET EXECUTED IN EDUCATION!

Without increased investment in education, Latin American and Caribbean countries will not be able to improve school infrastructure, promote truly educational environments, ensure inclusive education, decent work and living wages for teachers, and guarantee democratic governance in schools and continuity and access to free education. International commitments set out clear minimum funding targets to be achieved in our countries, which can and should guide civil society advocacy actions. However, the situation and particularities of each country will determine what minimum investment in education is necessary to guarantee free, quality public education for all.

In turn, in the Education Agenda 2030, the donor countries of international cooperation committed themselves to devoting 0.7% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to Official Development Assistance (ODA) until 2020 and between 15% and 20% of ODA to education.

  • STOP THE BUDGETARY BACKGROUND IN EDUCATION!

Some countries in our region are experiencing serious setbacks in the allocation of financial resources for education, in violation of rights and jeopardizing the achievement of educational goals.

  • FULL FREE PUBLIC EDUCATION!

Greater and better financing of the public education system is needed to make international commitments to the expansion and universalization of free public education a reality. Full free education, which has not yet become a reality in our region, entails the absence of costs related to the educational process, whether they are direct (school fees and fees related to tuition, textbooks, materials, transportation, enrolment in examinations and additional payments to teachers, etc.) or indirect (collections due to food and clothing, as well as other elements that condition access to and permanence in school).

In order to confront the privatizing tendencies of and in education and the actions that impose the logic of the market in public education and threaten the free provision of education, it is necessary to have strengthened education systems that are open to the participation of the educational community.

  • TAX JUSTICE AND ACHIVEMENT OF HUMAN RIGHTS!

Tax justice allows the necessary conditions to be set for the achievement of the human right to education: without the establishment of a fair and equitable tax system and effective mechanisms to counter fiscal avoidance and evasion, the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean will hardly have sufficient public resources to overcome inequalities and guarantee human rights.

In this regard, it must be recognized that the struggle for free, quality and free public education begins by putting an end to harmful tax incentives and tax avoidance practices of national and transnational corporations, by increasing the transparency of governments and large corporations, and by establishing a new international tax architecture.

You can follow the campaign messages or join social networks with complaints with the hashtag #FinancienloJusto or go to www.semanalatinoamericana.campanaderechoeducacion.org

 

Friends of Fe y Alegría Launches “La Silla Roja: A Journey Toward Justice”

Diseño sin título (1)                         [Photo by Monteserín Fotografía for Friends of Fe y Alegría]

As August turns into September, thousands of families around the country are in “back-to-school” mode. There are back-to-school nights, parent-teacher conferences and, of course, the necessary back-to-school clothes and supplies. For 264 million children and youth around the world, though, this reality seems like a distant future. 

La Silla Roja campaign was launched last year in the United States and Canada to raise awareness about the right to education and the fact that millions of youth continue to be denied this inalienable right. This year, we would like to go deeper, and together explore the root causes and consequences of this lack of access, asking questions such as: Why are there 264 million children and youth out-of-school worldwide? Why is education so important? How does education, or a lack thereof, affect our human rights? Why should I care? What can I do about it? 

However, before we discuss why education is vital to human rights, it’s worth asking ourselves the following question: Do we know what human rights are?

Respect my [Human] Rights.

As U.S. citizens, we often speak about our constitutional rights (the right to bear arms, the freedom of free speech, etc.) but what about our human rights? Do we even know what they are? Fortunately, for many of us human rights are so basic that we don’t even realize that they exist. We drink clean water and eat healthy food, we go to the doctor when we are sick, we vote in free and open elections. We go to quality and inclusive schools.

Though the concept of human rights stretches back centuries, our modern understanding is based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the United Nations in 1948. This document, which is the first of its kind, outlines the universal and inalienable rights we all share, regardless of gender, race, religion, nationality, political beliefs or disability.

For human rights to be respected and for this declaration to be more than a piece of paper, citizens and governments must do their part. Governments are responsible for upholding national and international laws that guarantee the free exercise of human rights and citizens are in turn entitled to enjoy their human rights. Citizens, though, must also burden the responsibility to respecting the rights of others.

Unfortunately, human rights are only an idea for millions around the world. As of 2016, 767 million people live in poverty, 400 million lack access to essential health services and over 758 million adults lack literacy skills.

Education is vital to Human Rights.

One of the most important human rights we enjoy is that of the right to education. Education is fundamental to exercising all other human rights. Education allows individuals to lift themselves out of poverty, to open “the golden gates to freedom” (as George Washington Carver once said) and to socially, physically and emotionally develop. Education not only gives us the skills and knowledge necessary to survive, but it also gives us the power and sense of self-worth to demand our human rights. For example:

– Without education we are more likely to be poor. (Poverty could be reduced by over 55% if all adults completed secondary education, meaning more than 420 million people would be lifted out of poverty.)

– Without education we are less likely to be healthy. (Just four additional years of education can reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes.)

– Without education we encounter higher rates of inequality and inequity. (Equality and equity = better access to jobs, wages and true sustainable development.)

– Without education girls and women are less empowered to assert themselves and stand up for their rights. (Educating girls and women = changing gender stereotypes of what girls and women should and can do.)

– Without education we care less about the environment and our effect on it. (Forty-two percent of individuals with a Master’s degree are concerned about the effects of climate change compared to just 25% of individuals with a high school degree.)

– Without education we are less likely to acquire political knowledge. (Less political knowledge = less likely to participate in democratic processes, such as voting, and more likely to resort to violence when protesting).

Simply stated, education is vital to addressing social inequality and injustice in our world today.

IMG_1572                                          [Photo by Sergi Cámara for Friends of Fe y Alegría]

Why are there 264 million girls, boys and youth out of school? Why should I care?

Before asking whether or not we should care about the millions of children and youth out of school, let’s reflect on a more basic question: Why are there 264 million children and youth not going back to school this month? Why are most of us in the throws of back-to-school fever with our own children and families, while a group of kids roughly the size of the U.S. population sits idly by in refugee camps in Jordan or sells fruit in the overcrowded streets of Lagos, Nigeria. Why do we enjoy our universal right to education and they do not? And, more importantly, is that just?

Whether you live in New York or Nairobi, access to quality and inclusive education can be problematic. [The United States, for example, has one of the highest out of school rates for children among Western nations at 5.5%] Poverty, climate change, war and gender are just a few of the reasons why there are so many kids out of school. Together with our partners at Educate Magis and Entreculturas-Fe y Alegría Spain, we will spend the next 10 months exploring some of the root causes of these issues through The Global Red Chair Project.

In the United States, though, we would like to spend this school year examining this last question: is it just that 264 million girls, boys and youth are out of school worldwide? If it is indeed unjust, what does that mean for us? If we are truly men and women of conscience, competence, compassion and commitment, what is our role in an unjust system and world? What are our responsibilities as men and women for others to social justice in this situation? How do we analyze this problem, not from a “us vs. them” perspective, but from a place of solidarity where we recognize the injustice facing others as an injustice facing us all?

What can I do?

As cliche as it sounds, the first step is reflection and understanding, both the importance of education and the rights and responsibilities that we all share regarding education.

As Fernando Reimers, Director of the Global Education Innovation Initiative at Harvard University, states, “In order to effect change on a global scale, one must be personally responsible, must participate in efforts to remedy injustice, and must seek to understand the causes of problems and injustice worldwide.”

So, we invite you to grab a red chair and join Friends of Fe y Alegría and other partners across the U.S. and Canada on “La Silla Roja: A Journey Toward Justice”.

This year, we have 8 easy-to-use, adaptable lesson plans to accompany you on the journey:

– World Literacy Day – La Silla Roja Launch

– Universal Children’s Day

– Human Rights Day

– World Migrants’ Day

– Earth Day

– “Right to Education” Country Highlights – VenezuelaColombiaHaiti

(Click here to view the complete curriculum guide and here to view the Spanish version.)

At Friends of Fe y Alegría, we believe that it is our responsibility to protect and care for the best classroom we have, the Earth. We also believe that it is our responsibility to promote peace, in our classrooms, in our schools and in our communities. Neither are possible, though, if we do not first defend the right to education. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that every single person, every girl, every boy and every young person exercises their right to a quality and inclusive education, regardless of their age, gender, race, religion or sexual orientation. We each have a fundamental and inalienable right to a quality and inclusive education, no matter where were born or the resources we have.

Thank you for joining us on the journey to promote global citizenship. We look forward to working together today to create the world we want tomorrow.

[Sources for this blogpost; Original post]