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Editorial: Civil and political rights in schools

Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names, and most are poorer and unhealthier than those who can. They are the world’s functional illiterates and their total includes more than 130 million children who do not attend school, 73 million of them girls.

Yet the ability to claim and enjoy the rights of an informed and responsible citizen rests squarely on a child’s access to a good basic education. A quality education - that encourages children’s participation and critical thinking and is infused with the values of peace and human dignity - has the power to transform societies in a single generation.

Furthermore, the fulfilment of a child’s right to education offers protection from a multitude of hazards, such as a life consigned to poverty, bonded labour in agriculture or industry, domestic labour, commercial sexual exploitation or recruitment into armed conflict.

Education and the Convention on the Rights of the Child

The right to education is ensured in numerous CRC articles, including the following:
Article 23.3-4 recognize the need for special education for children with disabilities. In relation to health, the CRC acknowledges the importance of health education for both children and their parents in article 24. Education under article 28 creates obligations for the State who has to provide free primary education and for children for whom attending primary educations is compulsory. Article 29 continues with setting out the aims of education, describing that it should be geared towards developing a child's personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to the fullest extent.

In April 2001, the Committee on the Rights of the Child adopted its General Comment No. 1 "The aims of education" on the signifance of article 29.1. In the Committee's General Comment No. 8 (2006), paragraphs 7, 19 and 20 call for States to refrain from using corporal punishment in schools, reiterating that corporal punishment is incompatible with the CRC.

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