Fourth Phase of Human Rights Education

Are we prepared enough to reach the benefits?

A. R. Farrukh Ahamed

       Can we recall Parimal, a teacher of the city’s famous Viqarunnisa Noon School & College who violated his own students? It was almost five years ago. This incident then created huge public anger countrywide. Parimal was eventually arrested. But now we forget him as well as his misdeed and thus it has been almost completely sank into oblivion. By the time, there have been many more Parimals rooted across the country. Panna in Rajshahi, Maulana Sirajuddaula in Feni, Mufti Jashim in Narayanganj and so many others. We have examples of Parimals to show, but could do nothing to reign the situation.

Rapists are still at large and we just know a few of them. We just know, a student was raped by her own teacher at her own institution, be it a school, a madrasha, a college or a university. Nowhere the female students are safe. People mostly the middle class city dwellers, some civil society organsations, NGOs, media outlets outrage for a while.  A lean voice of protest like a little bubble in a large pool, you might expect from our National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). They may send a statement or a press release to the news outlets and by doing so they exercise their duties and responsibilities and also power (?).  All are almost done. Do we really want such a Commission for Human Rights?

Some other questions — do our teachers have any knowledge or training on Human Rights? Are students aware of their own rights and responsibilities?  Who will provide them such knowledge on Human Rights, Child Rights or Right to Education? Is the NHRC really a powerful body to incorporate them with providing the Human Rights Education (HRE) in its institutional capacities? The answer in this regard to NHRC ­— yes, they can.

HRE PixThe world is going to observe the 4th phase of HRE from 2020. It has been dubbed as HRE 2020. Are we prepared to take home the benefits from HRE 2020? What is our planning to cope with the situation derived with HRE? It can be a big question for our NHRC, the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Social Welfare, Ministry of Law and other constitutional bodies and state regulators.  

On December 10, 1948, the newly created United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’. Forty six years later on 23 December of 1994, the Assembly declared 1995-2004 as the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education.

This effort was acclaimed over the next 10 years. The UN General Assembly made another proclamation on December 10, 2004, titled “World Program for Human Rights Education.”

This program is seeking to expand the scope of the 1994 resolution and “promote a common understanding of the basic principles and methodologies of human rights education, to provide a concrete framework for action, and to strengthen partnerships and cooperation from the international level down to the grassroots.”

The UN High Commissioner for the Promotion and Protection of all Human Rights functions as coordinator of the UN Education and Public Information Programs in the area of human rights. Besides, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) promotes human rights education by supporting national and local initiatives within the context of its technical cooperation.

After successful completion of three phases of HRE from 2005 to 2019 (each phases continued for 5 years), the Human Rights Council on 27 September 2018 confirmed that the fourth phase of the World Programme for Human Rights Education (2020-2024) will focus on youth, with special emphasis on education and training in equality, human rights and non-discrimination, and inclusion and respect for diversity with the aim of building inclusive and peaceful societies.

It was also decided to align the fourth phase with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and specifically with target 4.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals. The Council tasked the OHCHR to prepare a plan of action for the fourth phase through a consultative process, and to submit the plan of action to the Human Rights Council for its consideration at its 42nd session. As the World Programme is an ongoing initiative structured in consecutive phases, the Council reaffirmed that states should continue the implementation of previous phases, while taking the necessary measures to implement the fourth phase.

Incorporation of human rights education into formal school curricula is one of the most components of HRE. It has gradually been diversified with the assistance of NGOs, intergovernmental organizations, and individuals dedicated to spreading the topic through formal education.

However, Right to Education is one of the basic Human Rights of the human beings. And it is acknowledged that acquiring knowledge on Human Rights should be given priority from the very early stage of education of a human child. Unfortunately, our total education system has little capacity to provide with necessary supports in this regard. From pre-one to Post graduation, no specific curricula has yet been made. A vacuum lies also in teachers’ idea about human rights due to lack of HRE training. Resource contents are not made available or provided to the teachers as well as the students.

The 4th Phase of HRE is extremely knocking at the door. Our HR Commission, therefore, is in no time to get ready with its other stakeholders. Education Ministry, University Grant Commission (UGC), National Curriculum of Textbook Board (NCTB) and other education departments also must have the responsibility to implement the global goals of HR Education. The NHRC, in fact, has got an opportunity of proving itself ‘an effective arm of the government’ who works ‘not for government only’, also for the people of the republic who are deprived of their rights very often.

(A. R. Farrukh Ahamed is a PhD researcher on HRE at Dr. Wazed Research and Training Institute, Begum Rokeya University, Rangpur).