Thomas Hammarberg, Human Rigts Commissioner of the Council of Europe, yesterday released a call for more human rights education in schools. The call rests on the premise that human rights become more effective when people are actually aware of them. This seems a fair and perhaps rather evident idea. However, I am not sure Hammaberg is entirely right when he says that “a number of governments have not given sufficient priority to human rights education in schools. The allocated time is limited and the pedagogic methods unsuitable. The emphasis has been on preparing the pupils for the labour market rather than developing life skills which would incorporate human rights values.” Human rights violations and official disregard of basic rights thrive in totalitarian environments where, often financially poor, populaces are kept ill-informed and ill-educated in general. Thus, the best remedy against this is education in general – an education, which emphasises basic vocational as well as learning skills with the aim of securing future employment and education. Let’s not forget that education in general remains the foremost institution in attempts to alleviate poverty. By addressing the issue of poverty, human rights situations will eventually improve dramatically.
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