Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Kishore Singh
1. The present addendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to education contains, on a country-by-country basis, summaries of joint and individual letters of allegations and urgent appeals transmitted to States between 1st March 2010 and 29 April 2011, including communication sent by the previous mandate holder until 31 July 2010, as well as replies received between 15 April 2010 and 29 April 2011. Observations made by the Special Rapporteur have also been included where applicable.
2. The Special Rapporteur receives information alleging violations of the right to education and related rights from national, regional and international non-governmental organizations, as well as intergovernmental organizations. The Special Rapporteur responds to information received and considered to be reliable on alleged violations of the right to education, by writing to the State and others actors concerned, either together with other special procedure mandates or alone, inviting comment on the allegation, seeking clarification, reminding them of their obligations under international law in relation to the right to education and requesting information, where relevant, on steps being taken by the authorities to redress the situation in question. The Special Rapporteur urges all States and other actors to respond promptly to his communications and, in appropriate cases, to take all steps necessary to redress situations involving the violation of the right to education.
3. The Special Rapporteur recalls that in transmitting allegations and urgent appeals, he does not make any judgement concerning the merits of the cases, nor does he support the opinion of the persons or actors on behalf of whom he intervenes. The Special Rapporteur draws attention to the fact that the issues reflected in this addendum are not representative of the wide range of issues encompassed by the right to education.
4. Owing to restrictions on the length of documents, the Special Rapporteur has considerably reduced the details of communications sent and received. To the extent that his limited resources permit, the Special Rapporteur continues to follow up on communications sent and to monitor the situation where no reply has been received or where questions remain outstanding.
5. During the period under review, the Special Rapporteur transmitted 7 communications to the Governments of 7 States: China, Colombia, France, India, Israel, Romania and United States of America.
6. Five responses to these communications were received. The Special Rapporteur regrets that some States failed to respond and thanks those which took the time and made the effort to provide replies, which are reflected in the present report.
II. Communications sent and replies from States
73. On 07 October 2010, the Special Rapporteur on the right to education sent an allegation letter to the Government of Israel concerning the impact of the blockade by Israel on the school system in the Gaza Strip.
74. According to the information received: In June 2007, the Government of Israel imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip, generally only permitting items it defines as humanitarian into Gaza – essentially food, cooking gas, fuel, medicine and some other non-food items. In June 2010, the Government of Israel announced that it would “ease” the blockade on Gaza, allowing additional consumable items entry into Gaza. However, construction materials continue to remain banned for import and are only permitted entry for international organizations on a project-by-project basis.
75. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine (UNRWA) provides basic services to Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip, including elementary and preparation education (Grades 1 to 9) to Palestinian refugee children. Due to the blockade, the UNRWA has been unable to build a single school in Gaza in over three years. At the same time, the student population in UNRWA schools has risen dramatically, both due to population growth and increased rate of transfers from Palestinian Authority schools, where the quality of education and infrastructure is suffering significantly as a result of the occupation, the blockade of Gaza and ongoing conflict. Furthermore, some 217 schools, including 36 UNRWA schools and 60 kindergartens, were damaged during the Israeli military’s “Operation Cast Lead,” between 28 December 2008 and 19 January 2009.
76. At the start of the 2010/2011 school year, UNRWA’s student population in Gaza grew by 7,000 students to 213,000. In order to accommodate all of its students, 90 per cent of UNRWA school buildings in Gaza are forced to operate on a double-shift basis, housing two separate schools with an average of around 1,000 pupils each. With the increase of students at the commencement of the 2010/2011 school year, even the double-shift system has proven unable to accommodate the student population in UNRWA schools. As a result, for the 2011/2012 school year UNRWA will be forced to operate at least one to two “rotating classes” in each of its schools. These students will not have an allocated classroom space and will only be able to learn in a classroom when their fellow students rotate out. In some of UNRWA’s classes, three children are forced to sit at a desk built for two, due to lack of available space and furniture. UNRWA has also been forced to resort to utilizing shipping containers as classrooms to accommodate additional students in particularly crowded areas.
77. An estimated 40,000 Palestinian refugee children, who are eligible to attend UNRWA schools, are currently unable to either due to lack of available space or lack of schools within an appropriate distance. UNRWA estimates that around 30,000 of these students enroll in Palestinian Authority or private schools, many of which are even more overcrowded and in a worse state of physical disrepair than UNRWA schools. An additional 10,000 refugee children cannot be accounted for in any formal education in Gaza and are therefore allegedly deprived of their right to education. Many of these “missing” children reportedly are from families living in extreme poverty.
78. The impact of increased overcrowding and worsening socio-economic conditions is reportedly shown in UNRWA school results in Gaza, with many students failing to achieve basic levels of numeracy and literacy. In the 2010 unified examinations, only 59 per cent and 47 per cent of fourth grade students passed their Arabic and mathematics exams respectively.
79. UNRWA estimates a minimum of 100 new schools are required in order to meet the enrolment demands of the refugee children of Gaza and to return its schools to a single-shift system. The Palestinian Authority estimates that it would require 105 new schools in order to accommodate the growth in its student population and return its school buildings, of which 82 per cent currently function on a double-shift basis, to single shift schools.
80. As of September 2010, UNRWA has received approval from the Government of Israel to proceed with the building of only eight out of the 100 schools required.
81. The Special Rapporteur regrets that at the time of the finalization of the report, the Government has not transmitted any reply to his communication.
Document Type: Addendum, Communication, Report, Special Rapporteur Report
Document Sources: General Assembly, Human Rights Council, United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)
Subject: Agenda Item, Children, Closures/Curfews/Blockades, Education and culture, Human rights and international humanitarian law, Refugees and displaced persons
Publication Date: 13/05/2011