The right to education

Pakistani chldren sitting and looking at a green blackboard
Photo: iStock/Danishkhan

In the USA, the right to education is regarded as one of the basic human rights.

This right to education includes the equal opportunity for all children to get free and public education without consideration of race, religion, ethnicity, or sex.

The right to education and free public education is guaranteed under many international and national constitutions such as the United Nations documents and the United States Constitution. But this does not mean that every child gets free and public education everywhere in the world.

In this short article, I’d like to talk about some aspects of this right, some challenges, and recommendations for better access to this right and the way it can be much improved.

Whether on the local or global level, governments, organizations, and any sort of local or international groups should promote, inform and defend this right to their communities in every society. This is a required legal and moral duty to be implemented and defended so no child is deprived of it. Unfortunately, nowadays there are millions of children who have no access to free public educations around the world.

This is due to reasons such as poverty, wars, and conflicts, corruption, etc. When I was a child in the early 1980s, girls were deprived of going to colleges and even high schools in my village in Kurdistan (northern Iraq). Many families were not ready to send their kids to high school or college.

Cultural assumptions, traditional values, honor and protection were among the common justifications for lack of schooling.

In the small community where I was living, girls (not the boys) were only permitted to study until high school or middle school levels, but not colleges. Most of the justification was related to high costs of living, transportations to big cities, the vulnerability of girls to sex trafficking and sexual harassment, etc.

Sometimes religion was used to justify preventing girls from receiving further education in tribal areas. I remember my little sister was one clear victim of those old traditional values. Despite being one of the best and smartest students at the primary school in my village, she was deprived of going to high school and college. She became a clear example of not getting free education and being deprived of her right to education. 

The deprivation of free and public education can happen here in the United States as well. Some families and communities try to deprive their kids of further education based on various justifications. In Lincoln, Nebraska, I had a neighbor many years ago who did not let his child go to school for a long period of time. The justification was he is not a good child in his family.

I am sure there are many cases and situations where parents still prevent their kids to get a free and public education. It might be due to protections, or work, or just religious beliefs and other justifications. 

I think every one of us should work hard to inform, promote and protect the right to education. 

We used to think that the responsibility was for the government and organizations to do so. I think that individuals need to defend and promote this right among communities and abroad. Working in this cause is not easy due to several factors such as social beliefs, cultural values, financial difficulties, etc. but it is not impossible. We can make some changes everywhere we live – even here in our communities. We as individuals and small groups can promote this right in many ways and through different strategies among our local communities. 

Opinions expressed and advice given in USAHello’s Voices and Hello blogs are the writers’ own. USAHello offers impartial information and online courses to help newcomers in the USA.