Human Rights; the thirty indivisible, inalienable rights that we have agreed all humans are entitled to from birth. They are not privileges that can be granted when it is convenient. They are our rights that we have by virtue of being human. However, in some parts of the world, these rights are violated. With 1.4 million 6 to 11 year olds not attending school in India, a significant human rights violations in our world today is that of UDHR Article 26 – the right to education. In this essay, I will be focusing on Ladakh in India, where children as young as the age of six, do not have access to education – despite the eighty-sixth Amendment to the Indian Constitution which “provides free and compulsory education of all children in the age group of six to fourteen years as a Fundamental Right.” Furthermore, this educational human right violation is also likely to lead to further human rights violations.

In this essay, I will be looking at the contributory factors of this violation, as well as the actions taken by the NGO Lamden school to mitigate those factors.

This issue is highly nuanced – and while the majority would agree that the children who are denied education are the victims in this situation – there is no single, clear perpetrator, because nobody is actively taking away the right to education for these children. In my personal opinion,    this particular violation is a byproduct of extreme poverty – which itself is extremely complicated, because it is an outcome of many cultural, social and economical factors. Of these, studies have shown that the leading causes are economic in nature. Fees, textbooks, uniforms and other school resources can easily consume a poor family’s income, and so many families in India simply cannot afford to send even one of their children to school. This has led to a culture where it is socially acceptable (despite legal intervention) for children not to attend school. While young marriage is not typically a religious or faith-based cultural norm, it is a cultural tradition. In fact, around 61% of girls are married before the age of 16. Perhaps because of this norm, rural areas such as Ladakh do not have adequate provision of schools. This itself exacerbates the problem, leading to a cycle of educational poverty. Most parents find it is easier, cheaper, and safer to keep the children at home or have them work if there are no schools nearby.

In another sense, the right to education is also violated when the education provided is of such low quality that it can hardly be called an education at all. According to the World Bank, 90% of children from lower-income households remain illiterate even after completing four years of schooling, and less than half of children have basic literacy and math skills after the same amount of time. Surely, education has to be more than just sitting in a classroom – there should be real learning going on. For this reason and others, there is no single perpetrator of this violation. It is rather a complex accumulation of economic, cultural and social factors.

Lamden school is an NGO established in 1970 in Ladakh by young, dedicated Ladakhis that aims to provide free, quality, accessible education. It started in a rented building with just 12 pupils and one teacher, and has since grown, and now, it currently schools 1200 students, 400 of whom would not otherwise be able to afford it, who are now supported by the NGO’s financial aid and charity. Lamden school believes in the power of education, aiming to preserve and promote Ladakhi culture and language, and prepare the children for adulthood and to lead a happy and prosperous life. In practice, Lamden school teaches students basic subjects such as mathematics and literacy, as well as the Ladakhi language and history. The school has two hostels to house children who live far away, thus directly combating the issue of lack of nearby schools. Clearly, Lamden school does a lot to aid young Ladakhi children with their educations.

The education provided by Lamdon school directly targets issues such as poverty, unemployment, inequality, and child marriage – the issues that are the specific reasons why children do not have access to education in the first place. They hope to break the cycle of one generation’s lack of education leading to the violation in the next generation. Personally, I am in complete agreement with Lamden school’s perspective – education is a vital part of leading a prosperous life, and this violation needs to be addressed in order to have a fully functioning society.  In this way, Lamden school’s efforts to educate even a tiny portion of children will ultimately make a big difference in changing Ladakhi society.

Full Essay


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The United Nations. Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 1948. Print.