Education is a human right and not a commodity, and lawyers and judges are instrumental in ensuring the State fulfill its obligation to provide public education and to regulate private education providers.
This was the major takeaway from the judicial dialogue held by the International Commission of Jurists and the Nepalgunj High Court Bar Association on 2 and 3 September in Bardiya, Lumbini Province Nepal. The 27 participants in this Dialogue, included high court judges, other senior judicial officers, litigating lawyers from the Lumbini province, and experts working on public education.
Justice Hari Prasad Phuyal, a Supreme Court Judge in Nepal emphasized that particularly in the cases involving the right to education, “lawyers should research the gaps in laws, observe the action of the authorities and challenge the authority through complaint, appeal or via right to information including intervention through writ petitions”.
Highlighting the objective of the dialogue, ICJ Legal Adviser, Karuna Parajuli emphasized that “the dual education system in Nepal is acting as a catalyst to deepen inequality in our society. International human rights law standards are essential tools to reverse this course, by ensuring the State effectively regulates private educational institutions and promotes public education”.
During the dialogue, Dr Bidya Nath Koirala, a public education expert emphasized that privatization puts profit before human rights and turns social services like education to commodity. “The unregulated private educational providers registered under the Companies Act, 2063 (2006) in Nepal has great influence in policy making. Many instances show that the government is serving to the private sector. This is impacting the public education”, he said.
The ICJ’s Legal Adviser on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Timothy Hodgson joined the dialogue virtually gave a comparative perspective from South Africa. He highlighted how the South African Courts had affirmed and promoted the right to education as essential to the transformation of society. Using litigation on access to textbooks as example, Hodgson added that contrary to what governments frequently argued, “the realization of the right to education do not rely on resources only. In many instances, it is just inadequate planning and inadequate systems for the realization of the education”. Stressing the role of judiciary Hodgson added, “Judges in any country, including Nepal, will do well to look at comparative jurisprudence and international law standards in their efforts to realize the right to education”.
Justice Phuyal encouraged the lawyers in attendance to bring more cases on ESCR, including the right to education, to courts, concluding: “Judges as guardians [of human rights] have a role in monitoring the violation of rights. In dealing with ESCR cases, judges should understand the availability of resources and the immediate obligations of state and set timelines to accomplish the orders” added Judge Phuyal.
Karuna Parajuli, National Legal Adviser International Commission of Jurists, t: +9779808431222, e: email@example.comEventsNews