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Galtung & Structural Violence & Schools & Education Children’s rights to education

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    Children’s right to education should be promoted and upheld by all
    Publish Date: May 26, 2015



    By Sylvia Namubiru Mukasa

    As we begun the second term this week, all school going children and their parents looked forward with enthusiasm to a new term.

    Unfortunately for the children who have to depend on the good will of government, this dream was ruined as their teachers laid down their tools in demand of a better pay. Hence while the children of the first and middle class citizens were happily taken to school to start the second semester, the poor and lower class citizens looked on helplessly or went to school only to be welcomed by empty classrooms. This sent me to ponder again on the reality of theory of structural violence I learnt a few years back.

    Structural violence is a term commonly ascribed to a scholar, Johan Galtung, which he introduced in the article „Violence, Peace, and Research“ in 1969. It refers to a form of violence where some social structure or social institution may harm people by preventing them from meeting their basic needs. Institutionalized elitism, ethnocentrism, classism, racism,sexism, adultism, nationalism, heterosexism, and ageism are some examples of structural violence as proposed by Galtung. According to Galtung, rather than conveying a physical image, structural violence is an „avoidable impairment of fundamental human needs”. Because structural violence affects people differently in various social structures, it is very closely linked to social injustice.

    My take of what is happening is that it is justifiable to equate the ongoing neglect and “I don’t care” attitude toward teachers and children in the government education system as a form of structural violence. We are allowing social stratification and class difference to direct the affairs of our education system in Uganda. While the children of the first class and middle class have all education amenities at their disposal, study in a friendly environment, the poor and vulnerable children are suffering social education exclusion with poor study environment; lack of qualified and poorly remunerated teachers. We have allowed systematic injustices to prevail in our education policies, planning and distribution of resources and the outcome has been failure to meet the obligations undertaken at international, regional and national levels by our government, institutions and individuals.

    The 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, Article 30 provides for a right to education. The Children Act cap 59 puts into effect the Constitutional provisions and emphasizes the protection of the child by upholding the obligations as contained in the Convention on Rights of the Child and Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the African Child. The act provides for the welfare principle and provides for duty bearers who include parents, guardians and teachers responsible to provide for children rights including the right to education and guidance.

    In addition is the Education Act 13 of 2008 whose objective is to implement the Education policy of Government and clarify the functions and services by Government. Basic education is a right of everybody and education and training of a child is the joint responsibility of the State, parent or guardian, according to the act.

    By ignoring the demands of increasing teachers’ pay and rather opting to consider it for the next financial year; is the Government upholding the best interests of our children and their obligation as enshrined in article 3 and 4 of the convention on the rights of the child? . We have therefore neglected our primary responsibility and need to rethink our human rights performance index regarding respect and promotion of the rights of the child.

    Educational instruction must be equally gratuitous so that children from disadvantaged environments will be able to enjoy their right to an education. Beyond the question of accessibility, the right to education also supposes that the objectives of learning will be attained. This means that all children have the right to benefit from a quality education adapted to their needs.

    Efforts must be geared towards making schools available, affordable, and accessible for all children to enable them pick the best from education. We should not condone any form of aspiration that makes education secondary in our development plans. It should not be done for the sake of fulfilling international obligations where we put in place none starter, poorly equipped and resourced UPEs and USEs; rather we should strive to put our hearts and minds to a winning education system that is quantitative, qualitative, relevant, equitable, regulated and non-exploitative.

    I will end with this important quote by Gabriela Mistral Chilean poet-diplomat, educator and feminist

    “We are guilty of many errors and many faults, but our worst crime is abandoning the children, neglecting the fountain of life. Many of the things we need can wait. The child cannot. Right now is the time his bones are being formed, his blood is being made, and his senses are being developed. To him we cannot answer ‘Tomorrow’, his name is today”

    The writer is the executive director of Legal Aid Service Provider’s Network (LASPNET)

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