A New Latin-American Students Movement & The Right To Education

Recently, there have been the rumblings of an emergent pan-Latin American student movement. Crucially, this potential movement coheres around the demand for a right to education. In Colombia and Chile a new front is being fought against the creation and maintenance of private education and the implicit commodification of learning. However, this emergent trans-continental rights-demand is not simply another traditional usage of rights. Very often, when we hear ‘human rights’ we think about them in the most legalistic of senses. They are fetishized as that which the state may guarantee for the subject. As noted by all sorts of critical theorists, such an identification leads to a thorough limitation of political agency. The political subject is figured simply as the individual in need of the state’s protection. I have recently argued, in Human Rights and Constituent Power, that we must begin to think about a different human rights,  a differential human rights. This idea of rights would have, as its condition of existence, a fundamentally split nature. On one side is the closure implicit in the juridical form, but on the other is the radical political demand to reshape the world. I have suggested that we might term this second limb ‘right-ing’ – in that it is a potent and creative process rather than something which is always already given. Let me develop the idea a little more in the context of the radical demand for a right to education instantiated in Chile and Colombia.

The ‘Chilean Winter’ has seen massive student demonstrations against one of the most privatized educational systems in the world. Joined by trade unions and other left organizations, the students have mobilized and manifested themselves in public space. They have fought for the re-establishment of public institutions which would be run on a not-for-profit basis. They have argued against the private universities and secondary schools that  render education as a commodity. Continue reading “A New Latin-American Students Movement & The Right To Education”

A New Latin-American Students Movement & The Right To Education

The Right to Education: Andrew Croskery's challenge to his degree classification by Queen's University, Belfast

In recent months the “right to education” has been bandied round in the context of the debate on funding of higher education in the United Kingdom. In reality the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), as incorporated into the UK’s law by the Human Rights Act 1998, provides a somewhat threadbare right of access to educational institutions (Article 2 of the First Protocol) and does not require that states subsidise University funding.

This has severe implications for legal challenges by students to the way their degrees are run. Universities and Science Minister David Willetts has long insisted that when universities are able to raise their fees to up to £9000 a year this will have to be accompanied by a higher standard of service to students. He fired this shot over the bows of universities in his speech to the 2010 Universities UK Conference: Continue reading “The Right to Education: Andrew Croskery's challenge to his degree classification by Queen's University, Belfast”

The Right to Education: Andrew Croskery's challenge to his degree classification by Queen's University, Belfast

Underspending on Schools: Violating the Right to Education?

As discussion around the forthcoming budget intensifies, a report on current budget allocations bodes poorly for the state’s adherence to its budget-related human rights obligations.

Yesterday, RTE reported that the Department of Education has failed to spend almost half of the budget granted to it for buildings.

With two months to go to the end of the year, the Department of Education has yet to spend almost half of the 2010 budget allocated to it to build new schools and classrooms.

According to the report, new figures show the Department has spent €381m out of a total of €712m granted to it this year for capital projects – a figure that is ‘substantially behind the Department’s own projections for this time of the year’.

RTE highlighted that while 10% of this budget can be carried over to next year, any other remaining funds will be returned to the Department of Finance. The Department of Education has attributed its under-spend to dramatically reduced building costs.

While it is commendable and that last year’s budget maintained strong levels of capital funding for education, the failure of the state to employ the resources allocated for education-related capital projects calls into question its adherence to its international human rights obligations – particularly those under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Continue reading “Underspending on Schools: Violating the Right to Education?”

Underspending on Schools: Violating the Right to Education?

High Court Refuses Injunction in Asylum-Seekers' Education Case: Preliminary Analysis

RTE reports today that four Leaving Cert students have been refused an injunction by the High Court forcing the HSE to fund their return to school in Dublin. According to RTE, “the four, who arrived in Ireland from Africa as unaccompanied minors two years ago, were moved to adult accommodation for asylum seekers in Galway when they reached the end of the school year and had turned 18”.

The Irish Times states that they “are seeking a High Court injunction requiring the HSE to put into place an appropriate aftercare plan, including the provision of finances, that would allow them to complete their Leaving Certificate examinations at the schools in Dublin they previously attended. The injunction would remain in place pending a full hearing of their action”. Continue reading “High Court Refuses Injunction in Asylum-Seekers' Education Case: Preliminary Analysis”

High Court Refuses Injunction in Asylum-Seekers' Education Case: Preliminary Analysis

SCS on Children's Rights: Children in the Direct Provision System

Much has been written on the wholly inappropriate care arrangements for separated children in Ireland (see here, here, here, here and here). This research has found gross inadequacies in the separated child protection system; however the Irish government, in light of the Ryan Report, has committed itself to ensuring that separated children are treated on par with other children in the care system. This post seeks to examine the responses of the Irish state to those children who live with parent(s) or guardian(s) within the direct provision system, with a particular focus on rights of the child. As of May 2010, there were 2,034 children living in direct provision accommodation. From the May 2010 statistics provided by the Reception and Integration Agency, it is likely that many of these children have spent a considerable period of time within the direct provision system. With their parents prohibited from working, there is an enforced reliance on the direct provision system which I have previously argued signifies a move towards a more controlling and less rights based social security system. Children within direct provision will be accommodated with their parents in a single room. Where the child is part of a one-parent family, the accommodation may be shared with another one-parent family. Breakfasts, school lunches and dinners are provided to the children, the child may never have witnessed their parents preparing food. School friends may be denied access to the direct provision centre, so opportunities for play and social interaction is severely lessened. The location of the direct provision accommodation, usually away and apart from the host community, means that a child’s interaction with the local community is minimised.  In terms of social welfare entitlement, the child’s parent will receive €9.60 per week in addition to the €19.60 which each parent will receive. Supplementary welfare allowance, a residual and discretionary welfare payment, will be paid by the Health Services Executive to cover the cost of school uniforms, books and in some instances school trips. In general, parents will not be able to claim child benefit for their children, and the recent Social Welfare and Pensions (No.2) Act 2010 now states that asylum seekers cannot be considered to be habitually resident, and therefore legislatively prohibited from receiving child benefit. So what then are the international laws and standards which apply to such children? Continue reading “SCS on Children's Rights: Children in the Direct Provision System”

SCS on Children's Rights: Children in the Direct Provision System

O'Mahony on the Proposed Constitutional Amendment on Children – Education Aspects

You can learn more about Conor O’Mahony on our guest contributors page.

As part of the proposed constitutional amendment on children, the proposed new Article 42.2 proposes to enumerate, for the first time, a number of the rights of children, including “the right of the child to an education”. The proposal to include an explicit right of the child to education is welcome – indeed, it was recommended by the Constitution Review Group in 1996 – but in all probability, it changes little. The existence of such a right, correlative to the duty of the State under the existing Article 42.4 to provide for free primary education, was clearly reognised in Crowley v Ireland [1980] I.R. 102 and has never been questioned since. The new provision could potentially be interpreted as being broader, given that it refers to “an education” rather than merely to “primary education”. However, it is unlikely that the courts – and particularly the current Supreme Court – would interpret this as including a positive right to education at a level higher than primary, given that the corresponding duty of the State under the re-numbered Article 42.8 would still refer only to primary education. While the Oireachtas Committee Report states that the rights that are recognised in the proposed Article 42.2 are “designed to make a tangible difference to children’s rights”, there is no suggestion that there was any intention to take a step as significant as extending the right to free State education beyond primary level, and in the absence of such a clear intention, no court is likely to so interpret the provision. Continue reading “O'Mahony on the Proposed Constitutional Amendment on Children – Education Aspects”

O'Mahony on the Proposed Constitutional Amendment on Children – Education Aspects