The State’s ineptitude or indisposition to deal with Eastern Cape education is a continuous violation of children’s rightsPosted: 16 May, 2013
Without citing any empirical evidence, it is known that the quality of school facilities has an indirect effect on learning and ultimately on its output. For instance, in a study carried out in India (1996), out of 59 schools in a region, only 49 had structures. Of these 49 schools, 25 had a toilet, 20 had electricity, 10 had a school library and four had a television set. In this study, the quality of the learning environment was strongly correlated with pupils’ achievement in Hindi and mathematics.
Further, a research study was conducted in Latin America that included 50 000 students in grades 3 and 4, it was found that learners whose schools lacked classroom materials and had inadequate libraries were significantly more likely to show lower test scores and higher grade repetition than those whose schools were well equipped (see the United Nations Children’s Fund’s paper ‘Defining Quality Education’). There are many other studies done even in Africa, for example in Botswana, Nigeria and Papua New Guinea, indicating similar outcomes.
There seem to be a correlation between good school infrastructures, other quality dimensions (inter alia the quality of content, psychological aspects, quality processes involved) and the achievement of higher grades by learners. In this opinion piece, I examine the state of education in the Eastern Cape, and the failure by the South Africa government to meet its constitutional and international obligations to provide basic education.
On 11 May 2012 the Committee on World Food Security endorsed the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security to promote secure tenure rights and equitable access to land. These Guidelines offer a framework through which multinational investors may acquire and manage land without affecting the rights of local communities. However, this remains on paper while in practice the narrative is different.
In Uganda, land grabbing involves large scale land acquisitions by multinational and domestic investors either through buying or leasing large pieces of land. A study by the National Association of Professional Environments indicates that communities in the oil rich region of Bulisa in western Uganda, Kalangala Island in the Lake Victoria region, Mabira forest in the central region, and Luwunga forest reserve in Kiboga district have been affected or are yet to be affected by the land grabbing phenomenon.
The Ethiopian government often associates its developmental ideology with the East Asian model, while at the same time defining itself as a progressive democratic government. Paradoxically, the government defends itself from prodemocracy critics by arguing that food security comes first, then slowly comes democracy. Within this context, I analyse the right to food as a legal concept and how it can be used as a means to achieve food security in Ethiopia.
Ethiopia has ratified and adopted the main instruments establishing the right to food such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the Covenant on the Rights of the Child; the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women; and the African Charter on Peoples’ Rights. Ethiopia is also bound by international humanitarian law, having ratified the Geneva Convention of 1999 and the Additional Protocols thereto of 1977.
On 16 March 2013, Zimbabwean voters overwhelmingly ratified a new constitution, which contains a right to life provision that dramatically scaled back the scope of the death penalty. The new constitution restricts the death penalty only to aggravated homicide and requires a judge to consider all mitigating factors in order to dispense a death sentence. The death penalty is a prohibited sentence for women and persons under the age 21 or over the age 70. The new constitution also establishes a constitutional right for prisoners to seek commutation or pardon from the executive. The death penalty was abolished for non-homicide offences, including treason, a notoriously politicised charge in recent years. Newspaper reports indicated that the Cabinet would review the cases of each of the current 72 death row inmates, even though a new hangman was hired in February 2013 after a twelve-year long search. The two women on death row would have their sentences automatically commuted.
March 2013 marks ten years of one of the most innovative initiatives established under the auspices of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). Created in 2003, the main objective of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) is to foster the adoption of standard practices for political stability, sustainable development and economic integration through experience sharing between member states. As a voluntary process open to all members of the African Union, the steps of the APRM process include a country self-assessment, a review mission by the APRM Panel of Eminent Persons, a review of the ensuing Panel report by APRM Member States, and a finalized programme of action (NPoA) – the blueprint for development agreed upon by all stakeholders. These NPoAs are critical to identifying development challenges, and laying the foundation for legal and policy changes.
As of January 2013, the APRM boasts a membership of 35 States, with Tunisia and Chad as the newest members. Yet, the APRM has been plagued by financial and logistical challenges, stalled peer reviews and an occasionally negative public perception. In this piece, I highlight how a holistic approach to critiquing the APRM sheds light on some of the positive contributions the mechanism has made to development in Africa, and also illuminates the path for the next ten years.
One of the most critical ways that individuals can influence governmental decision-making is through voting. Voting is a formal expression of preference for a candidate for office or for a proposed resolution of an issue. Voting generally takes place in the context of a large-scale national or regional election, however, local and small-scale community elections can be just as critical to individual participation in government.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted unanimously by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, recognizes the integral role that transparent and open elections play in ensuring the fundamental right to participatory government. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly stipulates under Article 21:
Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his/her country, directly or through freely chosen representatives. Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country. The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot or by equivalent free voting procedures. (Emphasis mine)
In fact just five years after the end of the reign of the apartheid government of South Africa, the country’s constitutional court addressed one of the most profound issues facing the new democracy. The case involved a challenge to the denial of voting rights for citizens incarcerated in South African prisons and raised the fundamental issue of the meaning of democracy, one that was particularly poignant in a society in which such questions had been restricted from public debate. In his written decision for the Constitutional Court of South Africa, Justice Albie Sachs declared, “Rights may not be limited without justification and legislation dealing with the franchise must be interpreted in favor of enfranchisement rather than disenfranchisement.”
Author: Joelle Dountio
PhD candidate, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria
Religion, traditional cultural beliefs and law are all used by humans to fuel hatred, stigma, and discrimination towards homosexuals. The rights to equality, non-discrimination and freedom from torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment as upheld by the International Bill of Rights and other human rights instruments are, for the most part, all recognised in the constitutions and other national laws of most African countries. However, 36 of the 54 African countries have punitive laws on homosexuality. Meanwhile, homosexuality is a sexual orientation and a prohibited ground for discrimination under international human rights law (Toonen v. Australia).
Historically, religion has been used to justify some of the worst atrocities committed against human beings. Some of these atrocities include: slavery, the holocaust, apartheid, racism and terrorism. Today, the Bible is used to justify homophobia based on the famous kingdoms of Sodom and Gomorrah. The question I ask is, does the Bible really mean that we should kill these people as is happening today? And even if it does mean this, what about other practices for which the Bible says people should be killed? This Bible says married women who have sexual relations outside their marriage should be killed. The Bible says we should sell all we have and give the money to the poor. The Bible says we should not make carved images of anything in heaven. Why do Christians not apply these? Apparently man chooses to follow only those sections of the Bible which suit him and enable him to meet his selfish goal irrespective of the consequences to others. Is this not hypocrisy?
As you know, this year (2012) marked the launch of the AfricLaw blog by the Centre for Human Rights and the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa, University of Pretoria.
AfricLaw would like to thank you for your support in its first year of operation, for regularly visiting and commenting on posts on this blog. Equally, AfricLaw would like to thank all contributors for trusting AfricLaw to publish their invaluable contribution to discussions on the rule and role of law in Africa, mainly as regards human rights.
It remains AfricLaw’s mission to provide a platform for discussion around issues on the rule and role of law in Africa and to further strengthen African capacity in the field of law, through informed and engaged discussion.
We trust you will continue to support AfricLaw in the future and that you will also share ideas from the blog with colleagues and friends.
We furthermore hope that you extend an invitation for further contributions to students, academics, researchers, international and national civil servants, legislators and politicians, legal practitioners and judges you may know.
AfricLaw wishes you a peaceful year-end holiday and we hope to ‘see’ you next year when posting will resume (note that contributions are still welcome throughout the holidays).
- AfricLaw Editorial Team