One is terrified, and rightly, by that multitude of children growing up for disorder and for crime, with no other education than the examples of the theatre and the temptations of the public square. It is not well known that in district 12, four thousand boys and girls do not go to school due to lack of places in schools. It is not known that the district Saint-Marceau has only one asylum whose door is closed for 1,500 children between two and seven years. Faced with these sad figures, we would not believe that the commission of the asylums and the municipal council questioned the private charity the right to receive children and instruct them, and not to find the thirty thousand francs needed to found ten more schools, while the Saint-Marcel theater is authorized to resume its performances, and also to a new theater to open on the miserable Grand-Banquier street.
Frederic Ozanam, article «Aux gens de bien» [To good people], in L’Ère Nouvelle, nº 151, September 15, 1848.
- We continue reading and reflecting on the article entitled “To good people,” written by Frederic Ozanam and published in the newspaper L’Ere Nouvelle in September 1848. Faced with the situation of poverty that France suffers, the author reels in a long exhibition his personal experience dealing with people who lived in situations of marginalization and poverty. In this paragraph that we are reflecting on today, he talks about the situation of helplessness of the children in his time, many of whom do not even go to school. Although Frederic does not specifically talk about it in this text, he is also aware — and so he denounces it in other texts — of the labor exploitation suffered by many children of his time.
- Today, education is a human right recognized by the Declaration of Human Rights, in its article 26: “Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit. Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace. Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.” We can complement this text with many others: the International Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights, Art. 13; the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Art. 10 and 14; the International Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Art. 5; the Convention against Discrimination in Education, Arts. 3, 4 and 5; in particular, we can also read articles 28 and 29 of the Convention for the Rights of the Child (international treaty of the United Nations, signed in 1989 and ratified by 192 states recognized in the General Assembly of the United Nations):
Article 28 1. States Parties recognize the right of the child to education, and with a view to achieving this right progressively and on the basis of equal opportunity, they shall, in particular: (a) Make primary education compulsory and available free to all; (b) Encourage the development of different forms of secondary education, including general and vocational education, make them available and accessible to every child, and take appropriate measures such as the introduction of free education and offering financial assistance in case of need; (c) Make higher education accessible to all on the basis of capacity by every appropriate means; (d) Make educational and vocational information and guidance available and accessible to all children; (e) Take measures to encourage regular attendance at schools and the reduction of drop-out rates. 2. States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that school discipline is administered in a manner consistent with the child’s human dignity and in conformity with the present Convention. 3. States Parties shall promote and encourage international cooperation in matters relating to education, in particular with a view to contributing to the elimination of ignorance and illiteracy throughout the world and facilitating access to scientific and technical knowledge and modern teaching methods. In this regard, particular account shall be taken of the needs of developing countries.
Article 29 1. States Parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to: (a) The development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential; (b) The development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and for the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations; (c) The development of respect for the child’s parents, his or her own cultural identity, language and values, for the national values of the country in which the child is living, the country from which he or she may originate, and for civilizations different from his or her own; (d) The preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin; (e) The development of respect for the natural environment. 2. No part of the present article or article 28 shall be construed so as to interfere with the liberty of individuals and bodies to establish and direct educational institutions, subject always to the observance of the principle set forth in paragraph 1 of the present article and to the requirements that the education given in such institutions shall conform to such minimum standards as may be laid down by the State.
- All this is very nice on paper, but is it really being fulfilled? In the world, there are still tens of millions of children who do not even complete their primary education. It seems that, in this sense, there is still a long way to go in search of equity and the defense of childhood in our world. In the Millennium Development Goals, it was urged, in its Target 2.A, to “Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.” I am very much afraid that this objective is still far from being fulfilled, and the deadline has already expired.
- In Frederic’s time the reality was, without a doubt, worse. But times have changed a lot … or maybe not so much?
Questions for dialogue:
- What initiatives of the Vincentian Family do we know, working to guarantee access to education for all children?
- What is my local reality? Are there children without any schooling? Can we do something to alleviate this injustice?