Quality and Inequality – Blog Action Day 2014

Yes it is Blog Action Day 2014.

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The theme –INEQUALITY

 

Lets start with a vid:

 

Why quality? I am thinking about the quality of education -how it is denied to so many children and how good quality education could improve the chances of many and thus reduce inequalities.

 

Gender inequality

 

Food and inequality..

Only now are we considering taking malnutrition seriously :

some facts:

More than three million children under the age of five die annually of malnutrition, the UN food agency and World Health Organisation said on Thursday, urging governments to tackle the problem.

“Malnutrition is responsible for about half of all child deaths under five years of age, causing over three million deaths every year,” the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said.

Some 162 million children are left stunted by chronic malnutrition and 99 million children are underweight across the world, it added.

Since the first international conference on nutrition in 1992, “important advances in the fight against hunger and malnutrition have been made, but this progress has been insufficient and uneven,” FAO head Jose Graziano da Silva said.

There has only been a 17 percent reduction in undernourishment since the early 1990s, leaving over 840 million people still chronically undernourished.

The FAO and WHO urged governments to “make stronger commitments… to ensure healthier diets for all” at an international conference on nutrition to be held in Rome in November.

They warned that various forms of malnutrition often overlap and can coexist within the same country and even within the same household.

“Around 160 million children under five are stunted or chronically malnourished, while over two billion people suffer one or more micronutrient deficiencies,” they said in a statement.

“At the same time, another half billion are obese.”

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said the aim of the upcoming conference was to get governments to ask themselves “why is it that severe undernutrition and obesity can exist side by side in the same country and in the same community?”

She also called for more research into the health and environmental implications of “the rapid rise in the demand for meat and other animal products that coincides with rising income levels.”

Efforts to improve food and nutrition security continue to be hampered by low political commitment and weak institutional arrangements, the agencies said.

 

Inequalities abound – who gets water, shelter, access to nutritious food, quality education and health services seem to be dependent on where you were born -or is it more to do with power relationships?

Although I enjoy studying history, the rationale for studying history is spelt out as ‘so that we can learn from the past’ If this is correct , why do we continue to make the same mistakes whether it is to do with conflicts (Wars etc) or distribution of resources ? The strong (politics or wealth related) seem to always have the upper hand and inequalities seem to have to exist, otherwise the powerful lose their strength.

Quality and Inequality

UNICEF has provided food for thought when considering quality dimensions of education:

Children have a right to an education, a quality education.
Quality education includes:
Learners who are healthy, well-nourished and ready to participate and learn, and
supported in learning by their families and communities;

Environments that are healthy, safe, protective and gender-sensitive, and provide
adequate resources and facilities;

Content that is reflected in relevant curricula and materials for the acquisition ofbasic skills, especially in the areas of literacy, numeracy and skills for life, and knowledge in such areas as gender, health, nutrition, HIV/AIDS prevention and peace.

Processes through which trained teachers use child-centred teaching approaches in
well-managed classrooms and schools and skilful assessment to facilitate learning
and reduce disparities.
Outcomes that encompass knowledge, skills and attitudes, and are linked to
national goals for education and positive participation in society.
This definition allows for an understanding of education as a complex system embedded in a political, cultural and economic context.

In all aspects of the school and its surrounding education community, the
rights of the whole child, and all children, to survival, protection,
development and participation are at the centre. This means that the focus is
on learning which strengthens the capacities of children to act progressively
on their own behalf through the acquisition of relevant knowledge, useful
skills and appropriate attitudes; and which creates for children, and helps
them create for themselves and others, places of safety, security and healthy
interaction. (Bernard, 1999)

I wonder how far this definition can be applied to areas of conflict where children are often either used in conflicts (e.g. child soldiers) or their schools become targets of aggression or they become ‘collateral damage’ in civil wars.

CRIN has reported on recent documentation of some of the recent misuse and abuse of children:

Attacks on education

Targeting schools and schoolchildren is a grave violation of children’s rights. Even in times of war, schools and hospitals must remain safe places for children to learn and develop.

But in Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, children have been forced to study outside school buildings since 21 September when rebels took control of the city and occupied a number of schools, after a few days of brief but bloody fighting.

The Houthis, Shiite rebels, now control almost all state buildings, from the airport and the central bank to the Ministry of Defence.

The Houthis have fought the Yemeni government forces and pro-government tribal fighters through six rounds of fighting since 2004 from their stronghold in Saada, north of Sanaa. In 2011, they took complete control of Saada province.

Their takeover of the capital threatens to provoke a violent backlash from Sunni militants belonging to al-Qaeda. Last week, an al-Qaeda suicide bomber rammed an explosives-laden car into a hospital used by the Houthis, killing one person. The group, known as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, vowed to fight the rebels and called on other Sunnis for support.

A suicide bomber struck again on Thursday, killing at least 42 people,including several children, apparently targeting a Houthi checkpoint. No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks. The death toll was expected to climb further, with many of those wounded in serious or critical condition.

The Houthis have signed an agreement to end the fighting, mediated by UN envoy Jamal Benomar. The accord stipulates the withdrawal of their forces from Sanaa once a new prime minister is named. But president Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi has so far failed to name the new premier.

In Syria, at least 39 people, 30 of whom were children between six and nine-years-old, were killed in twin bombings outside a primary school in the government-controlled city of Homs last week, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The blasts happened as the children were leaving the school, said an official from Homs.

The UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, condemned the bombings and called on all parties to the conflict to end such attacks and for perpetrators to be brought to justice.

According to Ms. Zerrougui’s office, attacks on schools and hospitals have become a feature of the Syrian conflict and deprive millions of children of their right to education and health.

Since 2011, over three million children have dropped out of school and thousands of schools inside Syria have closed their doors because they have been destroyed, damaged, or are now used for military purposes or as shelter for families forced to abandon their homes.

Also on Syria, an American-led intervention targeting the Islamic State was launched last month. Human Rights Watch reported a US missile strike that killed at least two men, two women, and five children, urging the US government to investigate the attack for possible violations of the laws of war.

Legal battle over the recruitment of children in the UK

The UK is one of just 19 countries in the world – and the only country in the European Union – that still recruits 16-year-olds into its armed forces. The others include Bangladesh, El Salvador, Iran, and North Korea.

Child Soldiers International (CSI) will call  for a judicial review into the terms of enlistment for minors joining the British Army.

Although minors have a right to be discharged before their 18th birthday, after this point the so-called “Catch-22” clause commits them to serve until they are at least 22 years old, regardless of their age when they joined. This means the youngest recruits have to serve for longest. Lawyers acting for CSI claim this constitutes unlawful age discrimination in employment conditions.

Call for perpetrators of grave crimes to be brought to justice

A group of human rights organisations* urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) to send investigators to the Central African Republic (CAR), and called on the UN peacekeeping mission to help set up a special court in the country.

CAR’s President, Catherine Samba-Panza, officially asked the ICC in June to launch an investigation into crimes committed in her country since 2012.

In August, the UN and the CAR government signed a memorandum of understanding to create a Special Criminal Court (CCS) with both international and Central African judges. But the court can only be set up after CAR’s transitional parliament (CNT) passes a specific law.

CAR has been in a state of crisis since Seleka rebels seized power in 2013 in a campaign marked by widespread killing, looting and destruction. In mid-2013, groups of so-called ‘anti-balaka’ (anti-machete) organised to fight the Seleka, committing grave atrocities, with accounts of ethnic cleansing reported earlier this year.

The violence in CAR has forced about one million people to flee their homes. Most Muslims now live in Seleka-controlled areas in the north and east of the country, creating a de facto partition.

Elections meant to complete a return to democracy are due to be held in February. But amid continuing violence, officials in the country believe the polls will be delayed.

*The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Central African Human Rights League (LCDH) and Central African Human Rights Monitor (OCDH).

Unexploded ordnance kills two children in Ukraine

Two children were killed and five were injured in rebel-controlled eastern Ukraine last week when they tried to move an unexploded shell. The incident late Friday occurred in Zugres, a town about 30 kilometres east of Donetsk, the largest city controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

Children are particularly vulnerable to landmines, cluster munitions and unexploded ordnance in a number of ways. These devices sometimes look like toys and children are likely to pick them up out of curiosity. The Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor reports that since 2004 explosive munitions left behind during armed conflicts have been shown to consistently cause the greatest percentage of child casualties in 31 countries (64%) (See footnote no.5 for the list of countries).

Children attacked on all fronts in Afghanistan

The victims of the current Afghan conflict are primarily children. According to the UN Secretary General’s Report on Children and Armed Conflict, in 2013, more than 1,700 children were among the 3,000 civilian casualties- a 34 percent increase from 2012.

As reported by a spokesman for UNICEF in Afghanistan, the UN has documented 97 cases in which combatants recruited children, some as young as eight.

A report by Al Jazeera tells the story of Moheb, 12, who was forced to become a suicide bomber by his uncle, a Taliban commander. His uncle forced him to wear a suicide vest last year and instructed him on how to blow himself up next to a convoy of foreign troops. He was thrown out of his home when he failed to ‘accomplish’ his mission. He now lives in a government-run orphanage.

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) said that although officially there are no children in the Afghan army and police, they continue to be recruited by local authorities because of inappropriate recruitment mechanisms. Read the full story.

US military aid to governments using children as soldiers

The US passed a groundbreaking law in 2008 that prohibits the country from giving several forms of military assistance to governments using child soldiers. Its intention was to use a powerful incentive – withholding US military training, funding, and weapons – to influence governments to stop using children in their military forces.

The Obama administration identified nine countries this year where children are still recruited, but announced that only three would be barred from US military assistance. For the other six, Obama used his presidential authority to give partial or complete waivers.

Yemen, for instance, may receive $25 million in US military financing in 2015, with no strings attached. The country signed a UN agreement in May to end its use of child soldiers, but is a long way from eliminating the problem.

For Somalia, where the UN documented nearly 1,300 cases of child recruitment in 2013, including hundreds by the Somali National Army and its allied militias, the administration gave Somalia a full waiver as well, allowing it to receive  $115 million.

In an analysis of this year’s waiver of the law, Jo Becker, Children’s Rights Advocacy Director at Human Rights Watch, notes that the administration’s actions should match the words of its ambassador to the UN pronounced in a meeting of the UN Security Council on children and armed conflict two weeks ago: “perpetrators have to be held accountable. Groups that fail to change their behavior must be hit where it hurts.”

Not a single child untouched by the recent Gaza conflict

According to Makarim Wibisono, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories, there is not a single child who has not been adversely affected by the recent conflict in Gaza, where children suffer from bedwetting, difficulties sleeping, nightmares, a loss of appetite, and display more aggressive behaviour at school.

At the end of his first mission to the region, Wibisono expressed alarm at the terrible cost paid by Palestinian civilians, especially children in Gaza, as a result of Israel’s military operation that lasted 50 days in the summer of this year.

According to a press release on his findings, the latest round of violence from 7 July to 26 August 2014 has left 1,479 civilians dead, including 506 children. He added that 11,231 Palestinian civilians, including 3,436 children were injured, many of whom are now struggling with life-long disabilities. Tens of thousands of children live with the trauma of having witnessed the horrific killings of family members, friends, and neighbours before their own eyes.

“In the 50 days of relentless bombing and shelling, 228 schools in Gaza were damaged, including 26 destroyed or damaged beyond repair,”according to the press release.

Thousands killed in South Sudan

Thousands have been killed and nearly two million have fled their homes since the war broke out last December in South Sudan. Oxfam and other agencies have warned that an expected upsurge in violence could wipe out recent gains in food security and push the number of hungry people up by a million in the first three months of 2015.

Nearly 100,000 people are crammed into UN compounds across the country for their own protection, often in inhumane and unsanitary conditions.

At present, 5,660 children have been registered as missing in South Sudan and only 393 reunited with their families.

What began as a political power struggle last December quickly assumed an ethnic dimension, pitting President Salva Kiir’s Dinka tribe against militia forces from the former vice-president Riek Machar’s Nuer people.

Economic self-interest is also fuelling the conflict. A report last month by the Enough Project noted: “The country’s competing privileged elites are sacrificing their own people’s lives to secure the political and economic benefits – including massive state-corroding corruption – derived from control of the state.”

So  inequality between groups, tribes, political and religious affiliations, means that children, who are once again the ‘powerless’ have to suffer.

For Blog Action Day:

  • Follow the live coverage on October 16 and 17Visit our website www.blogactionday.org or our Facebook page  and take a look at the  posts that grab your attention.
  • Search for #BAD2014,  #Inequality #BlogAction14 on social media and “Blog Action Day” on google to connect with other Blog Action Day participants.
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