The Coalition for an Effective African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Court Coalition) has questioned whether the free education offered in most African countries is fit for the 21st century.
“Most African countries have in place legal frameworks and policies that guarantee access to free education.
“But the question remains: to what extent is education free? Is it only at ‘the school fees’ part, or does free education cater to other important costs? And at what level is free education being offered?
“Is it only at the primary, secondary, or university levels?” Ms. Sophia Ebby, African Court Coalition Coordinator, stated this at the opening of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights 2024 Judicial Year in Arisha, Tanzania, on Monday.
The African Court 2024 Judicial Year is on the theme “Enhancing the Justiciability of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights with an Emphasis on the Right to Education.”
The solidarity statement delivered by Ms. Ebby was made available to the Communication for Development and Advocacy Consult (CDA Consult), which is a development communication advocacy non-governmental organization based in Tema, Ghana, on Monday.
The ceremony was graced by the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, His Excellency Moussa Faki Mahamat, and the Attorney General of Kenya, Justin Muturi, on behalf of Dr. William Samoei Ruto, President of Kenya.
Ms. Ebby, African Court Coalition Coordinator, said, “It is worth asking ourselves, even in our African countries where free education is offered in practice, in this Fourth Industrial Revolution we are currently in, the era of global connectivity, Artificial Intelligence, and advanced technologies that are transforming the globe and the way we do things, do our educational policies and strategies take consideration of all these aspects?”
Reflecting on the African Union theme for the year 2024, which says, “Educate an Africa fit for the 21st Century: Building resilient education systems for increased access to inclusive, lifelong, quality, and relevant learning in Africa,” the African Court Coalition Coordinator stressed the need to take a deeper assessment of national legal and policy frameworks and how they are practically in harmony with regional and continental frameworks such as Agenda 2063 and the Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA).
She tasked civil society organizations to assess their roles in enhancing the justiciability of economic, social, and cultural rights for the benefit of our people and Africa as a continent.
She asked, “in our collective efforts as human rights civil society and human rights legal practitioners, to what extent do we place importance on the right to education for our people as an important aspect of social, economic, and cultural rights?
“How are we performing when it comes to amplifying our voices when this right is violated by our states and governments? How often do we persistently engage national mechanisms and African human rights mechanisms on this aspect?
“We do have existing jurisprudence on social, economic, and cultural rights in Africa, but can we do more? I do believe more is needed, hence the reminder by the African Court through the theme.”
Ms. Ebby, the African Court Coalition Coordinator, also questions, “To what extent are our governments prioritizing and investing in the right to education as an important tool towards a truly liberated Africa?”
The 2023 report developed by the African Union Commission and UNESCO titled Education in Africa: Placing Equity at the Heart of Policy reveals that “Despite sizable progress in several countries, many children continue to be left behind.
“This is partly because equity is often not at the heart of the government’s efforts to increase access and enhance quality and learning. 58 percent of upper secondary-level children in Sub-Saharan Africa do not attend school.”
She also questions the level of implementation of decisions by judicial and quasi-judicial human rights mechanisms, be it at the national, regional, or continental level: “How are our governments performing when they are required to comply and implement decisions that emanate from violations of social, economic, and cultural rights?”
“We all agree that the AU has a dynamic normative framework for ensuring that economic, social, and cultural rights are justiciable,” she noted.
The African Court Coalition commended the African Court initiative, which challenges and reminds all of the crucial aspects of human rights.
“Indeed, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights provides the basis for the justiciability of economic, social, and cultural rights. And if we have to ensure the realization of such rights, and in particular the right to education,” Ms. Ebby noted.
Over 200 delegates, drawn from various institutions and organizations, are expected to attend the ceremony.
Representatives of AU Member States, Regional and Sub-Regional Courts, African Union organs with a human rights mandate, and African Union Ambassadors accredited to Tanzania participated in the ceremony.
Others are members of the judicial corps of Tanzania, representatives of Bar Associations, civil society organizations, members of academia, members of the media, and other stakeholders involved in the work of the Court and the protection of human rights on the continent.
The ceremony commenced with a solemn procession of honourable judges of the African Court.