What comes to mind when you think of rights? Is it an exact set of duties and responsibilities of governments to their people? Or is it an ambiguous idea of things that everyone deserves? Oftentimes the concept of various rights gets lost as some lofty abstract in people’s minds that they can’t really define, such as, “Everyone should have the opportunity to go to school,” or “People shouldn’t be discriminated against.” In reality, rights are very concrete sets of obligations to which governments agree. These agreements may be made between governments and their citizens, such as in constitutions, or between one government and another, such as in charters of the United Nations (UN), African Union (AU), East African Community (EAC), and Southern African Development Community (SADC). Because they appear in agreements of various international and regional bodies (such as the UN, AU, EAC, and SADC) as well as domestic laws, one must look in many places to understand the full framework of any single right.
HakiElimu recently conducted such a mapping of the right to education, tracking it from the UN level, to the AU, to the EAC and SADC, all the way to Tanzanian domestic laws, to see exactly what is meant by the right to education in Tanzania and how it can be used legally. It has published these findings in a “Right to Education Info Packet” entitled Litigating the Right to Education in Tanzania: Legal, Political, and Social Considerations and Potential Applications. This publication documents the full implications of the right to education in Tanzania and what obligations, whether in international agreements or domestic legislation, the Government of Tanzania has to its citizens in terms of educational provision.
This publication goes a step further by looking at four specific issues in Tanzania that may be in violation of the right to education framework. These include ongoing costs of primary education, expulsion of pregnant students, corporal punishment, and dwindling development funds provided to the primary education sector. The Right to Education Info Packet is recommended to students, teachers, parents, activists, lawyers, judges, government officials, and anyone who is interested in ensuring that the right to education is upheld in Tanzania.
By Tony Baker