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The State of the World's Children 2004

Education, rights and responsibilities

© UNICEF/HQ97-0767/McGirr
Using a human rights model to ensure that all girls such as these two students in El Salvador are educated means that the world has to address the issue of gender discrimination.

Máximo Quispe Gutiérrez, a 62-year-old widow, lives in Cochas, Peru with his eight children. He is determined to see them all get an education. Illiteracy, poverty, back-breaking work – nothing will get in his way of realizing that dream.

Punkukunata Kichaspa (Opening Doors for Girls’ Education), a community-based project initiated by the Ministry of Education, USAID and UNICEF, is helping Mr. Gutiérrez accomplish what he once thought was impossible – securing his children’s right to an education.

This right can only be fully realized when all barriers to access, attendance, attainment and achievement are removed and when all disparities, including gender disparities, in these four areas are eliminated.

Mr. Gutiérrez, his children and Punkukunata Kichaspa are all part of a human rights-based approach to education, doing their part to help education barriers fall and disparities disappear. 

There are two groups – rights holders and duty bearers – who have specific responsibilities to ensure education for all. Rights holders include all those without a primary school education. Those responsible for seeing the right to education fulfilled include the international community as well as a hierarchy of duty bearers – parents, households and communities; teachers and managers; planners and administrators; national and local governments; non-governmental organizations and civil society organizations.

Duty bearers may encounter obstacles and need assistance in meeting their responsibilities. For instance, poor families might have difficulty meeting school attendance and completion costs. They need the support of government actions, such as the abolishment of all school fees.

Governments have a unique responsibility to secure the total package of resources, such as national budgetary allocations to education or external financial assistance, to ensure every citizen’s right to education.

Duty bearers can take a lesson from Mr. Gutiérrez. He expends extra energy to meet his responsibility to his children and watches his family’s future expand by a factor of eight.



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