Bangladesh’s response to right to education in Covid-19
Covid-19 pandemic, being the ‘new normal’ we have to live with, has brought to a fruition that we have no other way around but to cope ourselves, and our state apparatus with it. The educational sector is no exception to that as states around the world are in search for a viable solution to deliver education to their students amidst the contagion of corona virus. Thus far, the task has been a tough one, especially for the countries like Bangladesh that lack an infrastructure capable of adopting the new normal.
Right to Education in Bangladesh and its International Obligation
Conjecture based conclusion about Bangladesh’s education policy amidst covid-19 is easy to reach. But it takes a deeper look into the matter to make the best judgment of a situation. Bangladesh, with its limited resources, is pragmatically dealing with the Covid-19 crisis. However, based on some misleading headlines, one of the commentators gave a posture that long before easing the lockdown, the Government had already decided to lock the education sector down until September without even considering the probable prospective situations. To rejoin, these remarks flew from a partial consideration of the news that they referred to and raises a doubt as to if they had read the entire news. As far as the news goes, it states very clearly,“Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today said all educational institutions will remain closed till September if situation caused by the coronavirus outbreak does not improve.”
The implications are crystal clear and leave no scope to argue that the decision was made with the assumption that educational institutions are a second priority, or that it would not be re-opened gradually considering the demands of the situation. Moreover, Further news suggests that following the situation, Govt decided to keep the educational institutions closed till august 6.Hence, the posture is a farce on its face, and being based on too tenuous a fact to assume anything, loses its glare at the very first instance.
As far as international obligations are concern, Bangladesh, a state party to the ICESCR, has an obligation to ‘respect, protect and fulfil’ human rights. The obligation to fulfil requires States, when an individual or group is unable, to realize the right themselves by the available means at their disposal. At the same time, the Constitution of Bangladesh, in its Part II, made ESC rights judicially unenforceable. Said that, it should also be remembered that Bangladesh, being not a signatory to the Optional Protocol to the ICESCR, the instrument that closed the gap between civil and political rights and ESC rights, all that the existence of such an optional protocol means for it is that there is a complementary understanding of such international obligations. Therefore, it could be assumed that the obligations under that treaty are quite soft in comparison to countries which are signatory to that.
Compliance with the right to Education during Covid-19
In deciding if existing educational policies of Bangladesh are in compliance with its international obligations during the Covid-19 time, it should be kept in mind that the measures taken to address Covid-19 are temporary measures and they are not here to stay for eternity. But if the query involves the issue of accessibility, recent history of the development of the education sector in Bangladesh deserves some sole discussions. With regard to the literacy, Bangladesh, being the youngest nation of the South Asia has outdone many of its neighbors with a 73.91% literacy rate. To reckon, the literacy rate jumped from 46.46% to a staggering 74% in just last eleven years, inconsiderate of which, any jumping on to the conclusion that the existing policies are not in compliance to bridge the gap with Bangladesh’s international obligations would be as crippling as it could be.
ICESCR puts an unconditional obligation upon states to make primary education compulsory and free to all. The components of this ‘right to education’ as envisaged by the ICESCR committee consists of accessibility, availability, acceptability and adaptability. It also cues state parties to agree that their education policies shall be directed towards the aims and objectives identified in CRC.As to the questions put as to accessibility, it is submitted that Bangladesh opted to provide education to its primary and secondary level students via a state run television channel. The Government has not assigned any other private TV channels considering that they require extra subscription. Whereas both in the cities and villages all households having a television have access to the state-run television channel. Conversely in many regions of India, the state government chose to broadcast lessons through private network. Bangladesh’s initiative to dedicate an entire state-run TV channel for the educational purpose is therefore a thing to brag about.
Wary about the numbers of children benefitting from the pre-recorded broadcast due to unavailability of television is a serious concern for the country to deal with. Getting a complete data about the current situation is quite next to impossible. UNICEF conducted a survey which opines that 50.6% of the household owned a TV set in 2019. Interestingly, an eight years old,2012’s survey by UNICEF provides quite the same picture. Now, coming to the Govt’s data, According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, 22.9% of Bangladeshi households would hold a TV in Bangladesh back in 2004. The same percentage got almost doubled and reached to 44.44% in 2014, just in ten years. If we consider this growth rate with the rapid GDP growth rate of Bangladesh, the percentage of households having a television set should be around 70% in 2020, which is a staggering amount considering the unique and complex joint family system of this country. So, due to joint family framework of life, repeated telecast of the broadcast and the pre-recorded lessons being regularly uploaded in a Government initiated YouTube Channel, the percentages of benefitted students would be much higher than the percentages of households having a television set.
During the covid-19 time, providing physical access to education as proposed by many would not be a feasible policy to fit in a country which is best known for its four-figure population density. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended that school closure can reduce the infection rate by 30-50% at the peak of an epidemic, considering which as of 11 June 2020, 129 countries in the world have declared country wide closure of educational institutions. In these circumstances, stretching an ad nauseam debate on the same would only fuel a ‘right to life’ vs. ‘right to education’ conflict.
Domestic Enforcement of right to education in Bangladesh & Separation of Power concerns
It cannot be denied as a fact that having compartmentalized the human rights, there is no scope to enforce the ESC rights in Bangladesh. The latest innovative instrument that the judiciary introduced here is ‘Negative Enforcement’ (vide, 39 CLC (AD) (2017)). On this issue, the Govt is acting completely within its constitutional obligations, for it has not yet interfered into the decision of the non-government schools, private and some public universities to conduct classes.
True that Bangladesh as a country lacks enough resources to judicially enforce ESC rights, but to reiterate, that is what its constitution envisages. Judges being selected are no people’s representative to enforce Fundamental Principles of State Policy (FPSP), or to decide which ESC right should be given primacy (vide excerpts of the debate of constitutional assembly of Bangladesh in 69 DLR(AD) (2017) 63). Like most of the modern democracies out there, under its constitutional model, it is upon the legislators to decide on policy matters or policy hierarchy. Judges wielding their pen over legislators with regard to matters like FPSP is nothing but an encroachment of the concept of ‘separation of powers’, and alien to its existing Constitutional philosophy.
‘Less Government expenditure on education’ argument is surely a timely one, yet it should also be reminded that allocation to the education in 2019 was the largest allocation ever made to the education sector, and comparatively less expenditure on the education sector is mostly because of the government’s aim to fill up the infrastructure deficits accumulated before its coming into power. Still, the argument is cogent enough to deserve a glance of everyone, including the government officials.
Concluding Remarks and Ways Ahead
‘Necessity is the mother of invention’, and currently, every country is looking for innovations that best suit the unprecedented necessities. Governments are trying to find innovative ways so that education reaches to students in every corner of the country.. The priority is to implement the measures with highest potentials and restrict the system loss to the minimum. But a concrete solution to an evolving situation bears repercussions of its own. In Sierra Leone, during the Ebola outbreak, education programs were broadcast over the radio with listeners able to call in with questions at the end of each session. As per the peculiarity of a society, even an old-fashioned, almost abandoned technology named ‘radio’ could be a game changer for its cheap price, wide coverage and availability as already used by Kenya during Covid-19 crisis. In addition to the methods in place, Bangladeshi Government may adopt and consider similar policies with high potential and sheer limitations that best suit the interest of the future generations.
Pakistan’s Priority Ranking of SDGs
Sustainable development goals are also known as Global or Universal goals that are meant to guide developing and underdeveloped nation-states to a sustainable and peaceful future. Development is a combination of innovation and improvement over a consistent time. It requires the collaboration of several social, cultural, economic, legal, and political sectors. All such sectors are interdependent and function sustainably when allied towards the same goal.
What are SDGs?
Developmental goals outline the priorities of a state in terms of its international progress. They are meant to track and counter non-traditional security threats. Such threats are somewhat intangible and have a deeper, more impactful presence. If not countered through structured programs, infrastructure, and policymaking; they will only become a visible reality once the issue is nearly impossible to resolve.
Origin and purpose
These were born from the United Nations Conference that was hosted in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil in 2012. Global issues of all sorts were raised which revolved around aspects such as the environment, clean energy, sanitation, education, health, and security.
Goals and Commitments
The year 2015 decided that within the upcoming 15 years, there will be an active and hopefully successful attempt at ushering in a future of dignity and peace also known as the 2030 Agenda.
For each nation, there is a different ranking of the goals following their level of need and priority. Following is the ranking for Pakistan.
Goal 2 Zero Hunger
The second goal defines eradicating global hunger and reaching food security for all. This involves the production, processing, and distribution of food and sustainable agriculture. This goal is at the top of Pakistan’s priority list due to its status as an Agrarian State. Due to the recent inflation in the state, the food crisis has become a reality for a sizable portion of the Pakistani population.
Goal 3 Good Health and Well Being
Places focus on the overall health of all people. The focus is on preventative strategies for all ages. This goal covers the improvement of life expectancy in all developing and underdeveloped nations. It also includes immunization coverage, epidemics such as malaria and dengue, the Covid-19 pandemic, and emergency aid going out to all in times of global distress and disaster.
Goal 4 Quality Education
Good quality education that is inclusive and available to all is a cornerstone of a prosperous and peaceful society. This includes not only various education sustainability initiatives but also caters to accessible and high-caliber school and university infrastructure. This goal works for a bright future for not only the global youth but for the global economy as well.
Goal 6 Clean Water and Sanitation
Universal access to clean water and a hygienic living environment makes up Goal 6. This will help counter water pollution and reduce the spread of diseases like cholera, malaria, dysentery, typhoid, and Hepatitis A. Clean water and sanitation will ultimately lead to water efficiency and its use as a renewable energy source.
Goal 7 Affordable and Clean Energy
Clean Energy is the key to having a future landscape that this generation can pass on to the next. This goal works for the distribution of electricity across the globe, in poverty-stricken and hard-to-access areas. Renewable energy sources (windmills, hydro-electricity, solar power) are being focused on so that there can be a time when weaning off of non-renewable and quickly depleting fuels such as coal, gas, and oil is not harmful to both society and the economy.
Goal 8 Decent Work and Economic Growth
Economic growth is a necessary factor to keep states progressing and afloat. Goal 8 emphasizes the importance of productive and decent employment. It promotes a greener economy, sustainable tourism, and social protection for all.
Goal 16 Peace, Justice, and Security
Accountable and Just national institutions and law enforcement is the path to peace, justice, and security. There is an active need for local participation at the grassroots level. Peace can only ever be delivered from the bottom up. Pakistan has always had a conflict simmering at some level. Be it a population overflow at the borders or a politico-religious conflict. Effectively working on prevention and counter operations can foster peace and security for all.
Goal 1 No Poverty
The first goal is to end poverty globally. The poverty line has been decided over various factors and definitions in the past few years. Once it was declared that any person who consumed less than 2400 kcal over twenty-four hours was under the poverty line. Currently, it is set for members of society who live under Rs. 3000 monthly, in Pakistan.
Goal 5 Gender Equality
It is common knowledge that we live in a majorly patriarchal society that is disadvantageous to women and girls all over the world. Goal 5 aims to fix that by focusing on the elimination of gender-based violence and empowering more women to step into professional and operational roles by reducing in-house gender discrimination. There is also special care taken to recognize and reduce the unpaid labor and double standards which women face daily.
Goal 9 Industry. Innovation, and Infrastructure
A resilient and good quality infrastructure is a must to keep a state of more than 220 million people functioning properly. The innovation of the tech industry is the spearhead for Pakistan’s entry into a competitive future. There is still a need for better infrastructure including highways and high-rise buildings with proper sewage piping as well. Inclusive industrialization will bring about better credit, a more stable economy, and reduced unemployment.
Goal 10 Reduced Inequalities
The focus lies on reducing international inequalities and reducing the massive chasm existing between different classes of society. Income equality is directly tied to gendered equity, improved industrialization, and economic growth. Apart from reducing financial disparity, this also focuses on socio-political, cultural, and religious inclusion. Pakistan is a multicultural and diverse state with citizens belonging to various religious sects, castes, and ethnicities. However, this has often led to intersectional conflicts. This goal aims to counter that through various representative policies and global cooperation.
Goal 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities
These are such areas that practice, promote, and support sustainability in every aspect – energy, water, economy, infrastructure, and environment. This goal aims to ensure that due to the massive population migrations from rural to urban, there is no concentration of poverty due to the economic shift. Cities are to be safe havens for their constituents with public transport, parks, recreational spaces, and economic opportunities.
Goal 17 Partnerships for Goals
No system of such a scale can work in isolation therefore, to bring sustainability to Pakistan, there needs to be a joint effort by international powers and national institutions. Global platforms such as the UN, WTO, SAARC, ASEAN, and IMF are all contributing their part be it through funding, medical aid, or economic policing. Pakistan also partakes in multiple confidence-building measures and FTAs to live up to this goal.
Goal 12 Responsible consumption and Production
Focuses on management and usage of natural resources to not run out before other renewable sources are in place. This goal actively works to reduce the negative impact of state consumption on the environment – be it through chemical dumping, food waste, or wasteful consumption.
Goal 13 Climate Action
The recent floods in Pakistan and the searing temperatures in June and July point to the absolute necessity of taking climate action. Extreme temperatures, droughts, and flooding are all contributing to the deterioration of human and environmental health. Being a primarily agrarian exporter, Pakistan needs to be vigilant regarding any threat to its agricultural economy and counter it through planning, policies, and preventive strategies.
Goal 14 Life below Water and Goal 15 Life on Land
The sustainable Development goals have provided guidelines to ensure a hospitable future. This includes protection and conservation of the living habitat aka Oceans and Land. Due to the rapid rate of globalization, modernism, and human development, ecosystems both above and below have suffered. Many species have gone extinct as well, due to unregulated hunting and fishing throughout the year. Ocean acidification and pollution are major concerns due to it being a major food source for the global population. Similarly, deforestation, desertification, and poaching need to be eliminated on land. Pakistan has participated in such initiatives to conserve and protect forests through artificial reforestation – the Changa Manga Forest.
Pakistan is constantly making progress in seeing the SDGs through. Consistency is key to success and in this case, sustainability.
Breaking Diplomatic Norms: Indian Response to OIC & Turkish Support for Kashmir Issue
Recently, the Indian government has been facing backlash for its highly undemocratic and derogatory remarks on Turkey’s support to the Kashmir issue at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). The Indian government has also criticized the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) for its statement on Indian Human Rights Abuses in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).
India’s long-standing hostility towards Pakistan has been a subject of much criticism in international diplomatic circles. While the two countries have a history of conflicts and disputes, India’s approach towards Pakistan has often been seen as unconstructive and counterproductive. The Indian government’s hardline stance on Pakistan has resulted in a deepening of the mistrust between the two countries, which has had serious implications for regional stability and security.
India’s rhetoric towards Pakistan has often been marked by derogatory and aggressive remarks, particularly in the context of the Kashmir issue. In recent years, India has sought to internationalize the issue of Kashmir and has baselessly accused Pakistan of supporting terrorism in the region. This has resulted in a hardening of positions on both sides and has made any meaningful dialogue between the two countries almost impossible.
India’s recent criticism of Turkey’s support for the Kashmir issue at the UNHRC and its condemnation of the OIC’s statement on Indian human rights abuses in IIOJK is another example of its obsession with Pakistan. The Indian government’s response to these developments has been highly un-democratic and derogatory, with Indian officials using aggressive language and personal attacks to discredit Turkey and the OIC.
India’s preoccupation with Pakistan has also had implications for its relationship with other countries in the region. India’s increasingly assertive foreign policy and its strategic partnership with the US have raised concerns among its neighbors, who fear that India’s pursuit of its own interests could undermine regional stability and security. India’s aggressive stance towards China and its border disputes have also added to regional tensions and have led to a deterioration in its relationship with Beijing.Bottom of Form
It is important to note that Turkey has always been a strong supporter of the Kashmir issue, and has been vocal about the human rights abuses committed by Indian forces in the region. In September 2021, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan raised the issue of Kashmir during his speech at the UN General Assembly, stating that the “Kashmir conflict, which is also key to the stability and peace of South Asia, is still a burning issue.”
In response to Turkey’s support of the Kashmir issue, India’s Ministry of External Affairs issued a statement condemning Turkey’s stance, claiming that it was “completely unacceptable” and that Turkey had no right to interfere in India’s internal affairs. India’s statement also accused Turkey of using the Kashmir issue as a “distraction” from its own internal problems.
This reaction from the Indian government is highly undemocratic and uncalled for. It is the right of any nation to express its views on global issues, and India’s attempt to suppress Turkey’s support for the Kashmir issue is a clear violation of this right. The Kashmir issue has been a longstanding dispute between India and Pakistan, and the international community has a responsibility to support a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Turkey’s support for the Kashmir issue is a step in the right direction towards achieving this goal.
Furthermore, the Indian government’s criticism of the OIC’s statement on Indian Human Rights Abuses in IIOJK is also highly inappropriate. The OIC, a group of 57 Muslim-majority countries, has expressed concern over the human rights abuses committed by Indian forces in IIOJK, including extrajudicial killings, torture, and enforced disappearances. The OIC’s statement is a reflection of the international community’s concerns over the situation in IIOJK, and it is the right of the OIC to express its views on this matter.
India’s response to the OIC’s statement has been highly critical, with the Indian government accusing the OIC of interfering in India’s internal affairs. This response is yet another attempt by the Indian government to suppress international criticism of its human rights abuses in IIOJK. The Indian government’s stance on this issue is highly hypocritical, as it has repeatedly called for international support in its own disputes with other nations, including Pakistan.
Indian government’s highly undemocratic and derogatory remarks on Turkey’s support for the Kashmir issue at the UNHRC, as well as its criticism of the OIC’s statement on Indian Human Rights Abuses in IIOJK, are reflective of its lack of respect for international law and global human rights standards. The Kashmir issue is a longstanding dispute that requires a peaceful and just resolution, and the international community has a responsibility to support this goal. The Indian government must recognize this and work towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict, rather than resorting to undemocratic and inflammatory rhetoric.
The Taliban’s Loss of Popular Support in Afghanistan
Afghanistan is currently facing an unprecedented crisis due to the Taliban’s takeover of the country in August 2021. Despite initially claiming to have widespread support from the Afghan population, reports from within the country now suggest that the Taliban’s grip on power is increasingly fragile. The Taliban’s regime has been marked by egregious human rights violations, economic hardship, lack of inclusivity, international isolation, and brutal tactics during the war, all of which have contributed to their diminishing popularity. The people of Afghanistan continue to suffer under the oppressive rule of the Taliban, and urgent action is needed to address the humanitarian crisis and restore stability to the region.
One of the most pressing issues facing Afghanistan under the Taliban is the economic crisis that has emerged in the wake of their takeover. The country is facing inflation, food shortages, and job losses, all of which are having a significant impact on the lives of ordinary Afghans. The prices for basic goods such as flour and sugar have skyrocketed and many families are struggling to afford even one meal a day. In 2022, many reports emerged that people are selling their kidneys to feed their families.
The Taliban has struggled to revive the economy, and their policies have not been effective in addressing the economic crisis. According to the New York Times, “the Taliban’s financial plan relies heavily on the illicit drug trade, a strategy that may provide some short-term gains but will ultimately lead to greater instability and economic hardship for ordinary Afghans.”
Human Rights Violations
The Taliban’s history of human rights violations, particularly their treatment of women and girls, has also contributed to their loss of popular support in Afghanistan. The Taliban has a reputation for imposing strict restrictions on women’s rights, including banning girls from attending school and requiring women to wear burqas in public. Various media outlets report suggest that women and girls have been virtually invisible in public since the Taliban took over. The Taliban has also used violence against civilians, including women and children who raised voice for their rights. We see constant demonstrations against ban on girls’ education in Kabul and Taliban use to suppress them by using force. No one is allowed to held a protest against the Taliban repressive policies.
Lack of Inclusivity
The Taliban’s government has been criticized for its lack of inclusivity and representation of Afghanistan’s diverse ethnic, political and religious groups. The Taliban is dominated by Pashtuns, and there are concerns that other groups may be marginalized or excluded from political participation. No previous polit al leaders who are in politics for decades is a part of the new set up. Taliban have imposed a narrow interpretation of Islam that does not reflect the country’s diversity and tolerance as well as equal opportunities to men and women. The Taliban’s cabinet is made up entirely of men, and there are no non-Pashtuns or Shia Muslims in key positions.
The Taliban’s return to power has resulted in international isolation, with several countries imposing sanctions and restrictions on the Taliban regime. This has limited the Taliban’s ability to access international aid and resources, which has further exacerbated the economic crisis in Afghanistan. The Washington Post reports that “the Taliban’s international isolation is exacerbating an already dire humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan,” and that “the country desperately needs international aid to address its economic woes and provide basic services to its people.” Unless the Taliban bring a change to their repressive policies, they will remain isolated in the international community.
Taliban’s Tactics During the War
The Taliban’s tactics during the war against US-led NATO and ISAF forces, including their use of suicide bombings and targeting of civilians, have also contributed to their loss of popular support among Afghans who have been affected by the violence. The New York Times reported in September 2021 that “the Taliban’s brutal tactics during the war have left a legacy of fear and trauma among the Afghan people.” Many Afghans are deeply distrustful of the Taliban because of the group’s violent tactics during the war and the atrocities they committed against civilians. The Taliban’s reputation as a violent and extremist group has made it difficult for them to gain the trust and support of the Afghan population.
Addressing the Issues
The Taliban faces a significant challenge in regaining the trust and support of the Afghan people. They will need to address the economic crisis, provide basic services to the population, and create an inclusive government that represents Afghanistan’s diverse ethnic, political and religious groups. They will also need to address human rights concerns especially women rights and restore the rule of law. Also, they will need to make significant concessions if they hope to regain the trust of the Afghan people and the international community. They need to create a more stable and predictable environment for the Afghan people if they hope to build a functioning state. The Taliban has taken some steps to address these concerns, including pledging to respect women’s rights and promising to form an inclusive government. However, the effectiveness of these measures remains to be seen.
The Taliban’s loss of popular support in Afghanistan is a significant challenge for the group as they seek to govern the country. Economic hardship, human rights violations, women rights, lack of inclusivity, international isolation, and the Taliban’s tactics during the war have all contributed to their declining popularity. The Taliban will need to address these issues if they hope to regain the trust and support of the Afghan people and build a functioning state. The Taliban’s future depends on their ability to govern effectively and address the concerns of the Afghan people. If they fail to do so, they risk losing the support of the population and facing significant challenges in the years to come. It remains to be seen whether the Taliban can rise to this challenge and create a stable and prosperous Afghanistan for all its citizens.
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