International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Written by Gianna Chen and Panashe Marie Louise Mlambo

Established by UN General Assembly resolution 2142 (XXI) on 26 October 1966, 21 March marks the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.1 On this significant occasion, Broken Chalk reaffirms its unwavering commitment to tackling educational challenges and addressing human rights violations in the education sector worldwide.

As a dedicated advocate, Broken Chalk tirelessly engages with international organizations, governments, and stakeholders to drive action on behalf of educational victims. Through extensive advocacy and lobbying efforts, the organization aims to shed light on often-overlooked aspects of human rights violations in education, urging the international community to take decisive action.

According to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, “All human beings are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection of the law against any discrimination and any incitement to discrimination”2. Broken Chalk stands firmly with this statement and further advocates for eliminating racial discrimination in the education sector. Racial discrimination within the education system has largely impacted the fundamental aspects of learning environments, including gender bias, disability exclusion, ethnic minority segregation, and socioeconomic disparities3. One of the critical initiatives undertaken by Broken Chalk involves the diligent work of volunteers and interns stationed remotely across the globe. Their efforts focus on preparing comprehensive reports for international organizations, stakeholders, and governments. These reports serve to highlight instances of human rights violations in education, particularly in areas affected by conflict, where access to education is hindered, and civilian lives are endangered.4

The disparity between constitutional provisions and educational laws within the European Union (EU) is a matter of grave concern. While all EU member states prohibit direct and indirect racial discrimination in their national constitutions, the majority do not sufficiently address these issues in their education laws5. Shockingly, only nine states out of 28 prohibit direct racial discrimination, while only seven prohibit indirect racial discrimination in their educational legislation.6 Furthermore, harassment is explicitly refused in education laws in merely six states.

Broken Chalk recognizes the urgent need for action to bridge this gap and ensure equality and non-discrimination in education across all EU member states. By advocating for stronger legal frameworks and policies, the organization aims to uphold the fundamental right to education for all individuals, regardless of race or ethnicity.

“Our work is driven by a commitment to promoting equality and justice in education. On this International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, we urge governments and stakeholders to prioritize the protection of human rights in education and take decisive action to address systemic inequalities.”

As an international organization, Broken Chalk remains steadfast in its mission to achieve a local and global perspective in its advocacy efforts. Through collaborative action and collective engagement, the organization strives to create a world where every individual has access to quality education, free from discrimination and injustice.

Featured image designed by Marie Louise


1https://documents.un.org/doc/resolution/gen/nr0/004/45/pdf/nr000445.pdf?token=c7hlL3w235MsHb0oCK&fe=true

2 https://www.ohchr.org/en/instruments-mechanisms/instruments/international-convention-elimination-all-forms-racial

3 https://brokenchalk.org/world-education-report-2023/

4 https://brokenchalk.org/about-us/

5 https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/BRIE/2023/745691/EPRS_BRI(2023)745691_EN.pdf

6 https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/MEMO_07_257

Press Release: International Cyber Censorship Day 2024

12th March 2024

Some governments use cyber censorship to suppress the right to freedom of speech.

Cyber Censorship is an emergent issue that is evident to this day. Cyber Censorship can be identified as the control or suppression of what can be accessed, published, or viewed online. It can be practised in different forms by governments, organisations, or even individuals who try to restrict access to content, especially on the Internet. Until now, governments still practice cyber censorship; some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, practice cyber censorship regarding religion, as many websites or content that is considered offensive to the Islamic region is removed. Countries like China and Iran ban access to social media and practice high censorship policies to detect and block any information regarding the regime[1]. In some ways, Cyber Censorship is being used to allow the internet to be a safer platform for children, reduce racism, or reduce radical ideologies; however, currently, cyber censorship has taken a darker turn as governments use it as a tool to suppress individuals and rights of freedom of speech.

            In research done by the Freedom House 2023, the top 10 countries with the worst internet Censorship were China, Myanmar, Iran, Cuba, Vietnam, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Ethiopia, and lastly, Eygpt.  These countries typically block websites and apps that can lead to political change or Western propaganda. Chinese internet censors are known to monitor what individuals say and post, and many countries on the list above practice the same methods. This raises the alarming idea of an invasion of privacy and violating the fundamental human rights amendments of freedom of speech. Common reasons why governments would invoke such measures are Fear of criticism towards governments, accessing information that could inspire people to act out against the

Government, or even using the internet to coordinate events such as the Arab Spring Revolution[2].

Interestingly, research conducted by Cherry & Michigan Engineering (2020) has shown that cyber censorship is increasingly spreading in world democracies such as Norway, Japan, Italy, India, and Poland. However, it was not as aggressive as China’s policies on its citizens. Yet, it is essential to shed light on all sorts of censorship and critically analyse the root or the reason for it. In June 2019, Poland experienced a series of protests, and coincidentally, there was a spike in censorship regarding social media websites and Human Rights Watch streams. Similarly, in Japan, when the G20 Summit occurred in 2019, citizens experienced censorship with a few networks. This research concluded that when there is a high-importance political event, social unrest, or new laws, there is a spike or an increasing trend with cyber censorship[3].

Adding on the above, in the current genocide that Palestinians are facing, there has been much news and evidence of Cyber Censorship that is being practised not only by complicit countries but also by social media organisations such as Meta. Many users of Instagram have been reporting that they are either shadow-banned on their stories or cannot share their posts because they get automatically deleted. Even authors, activists, journalists, and filmmakers were automatically hidden or even had their content deleted if they mentioned Palestine within their content. This is not a phenomenon that was only seen on social media. Also, the Western government tried to censor and apply propaganda when dealing with this genocide[4]. Palestinians and other world citizens are concerned, as these violations are clear and direct restrictions on their freedom of expression, access to information, freedom of assembly, and political participation.

Broken Chalk announces it to the public with due respect.

Signed by

Broken Chalk

International-Cyber-Censorship-Day_2024_Press_Release_Eng

[1] Vojinovic, I. (2023, May 6). Internet Censorship: Definition, Types, & How It Can Affect You. Sirisha. https://dataprot.net/articles/what-is-internet-censorship/

[2]  World Population Review. (2024). Countries That Censor The Internet 2024. https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/countries-that-censor-the-internet

[3] Cherry, G. & Michigan Engieering. (2020). “Extremely Agressive” Internet Censorship Spreads in the World’s Democracies. https://news.umich.edu/extremely-aggressive-internet-censorship-spreads-in-the-worlds-democracies/

[4] Shankar, P., Dixit, P., & Siddiqui, U. (2023, October 27). Are social media giants censoring pro-Palestine voices amid Israel’s war? Al Jazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2023/10/24/shadowbanning-are-social-media-giants-censoring-pro-palestine-voices

Press Release: International Women’s Day 2024

Shattering Stereotypes, Building Strength: Broken Chalk’s Stand Against Violence

As the world marks International Women’s Day, Broken Chalk reaffirms its unwavering commitment to combating gender-based violence and dismantling the harmful stereotypes and systemic barriers that perpetuate it.

Violence against women is a global epidemic, transcending borders, cultures, and socioeconomic statuses. It manifests in various forms, including domestic violence, sexual assault, harassment, and harmful traditional practices. Despite progress in gender equality efforts, millions of women continue to suffer in silence, trapped in cycles of abuse and oppression.

The recent regional research sheds light on alarming trends, revealing that societal norms often blame women for the violence they experience, perpetuating a culture of victim-blaming. Shockingly, seven out of 10 young men aged 15–19 in the LAC region attribute women’s attire or behaviour as justification for violence against them. Furthermore, rigid gender roles impose expectations of submission on women, leading to instances of physical violence as punishment for transgressions.

Femicide is also a big issue in the LAC region,  femicide is not only about the description of crimes committed by homicides against girls and women but about the social construction of these hate crimes, the culmination of gender violence against women, as well as the impunity that configures them. According to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW),  femicide is a term used to refer to the gender-based killing of women and it is regarded as a grave form of assault on the right to life directed against women, constituting an extreme form of gender-based violence.

The problem of femicide is not only faced in the LAC region. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, in 20223 nearly 89,000 women and girls were killed globally, the highest yearly number recorded in the past two decades.

Broken Chalk recognises that gender-based violence stems from deeply ingrained patriarchal and sexist views that legitimise violence as a means to exert power and control over women. Gender-based violence is a significant hurdle that impedes women’s ability to exercise their civil, political, economic, cultural, and social rights. This issue is recognized as one of the most significant barriers that women face in achieving their full potential in society.  Cultural factors, including religious and historical traditions, perpetuate notions of entitlement and ownership over women, contributing to the normalisation of violence in society.

Access to justice is a fundamental human right, yet many obstacles hinder women’s ability to seek justice, including judicial stereotyping and discrimination within the legal system. Judicial bias and harmful stereotypes often lead to miscarriages of justice, re-victimisation of survivors, and perpetuation of inequality.

Gender-based violence (GBV) remains a pervasive and deeply concerning issue affecting communities worldwide. As we observe International Women’s Day, it is crucial to confront the harsh reality that millions of individuals, predominantly women and girls, continue to suffer from various forms of violence solely because of their gender. From physical and sexual abuse to psychological and economic coercion, GBV takes numerous insidious forms, inflicting profound and lasting harm on its victims.

Within the context of GBV, women are disproportionately affected, enduring systemic inequalities and discriminatory practices that exacerbate their vulnerability. The COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated this crisis, as lockdowns and social distancing measures trapped many survivors in unsafe environments with their abusers, while simultaneously disrupting essential support services. As a result, reports of domestic violence surged globally, highlighting the urgent need for comprehensive and coordinated responses to address GBV in all its manifestations.

It is imperative to recognize that GBV is not confined to the private sphere but permeates every facet of society, including workplaces, educational institutions, and public spaces. The prevalence of sexual harassment, gender-based discrimination, and intimate partner violence underscores the pervasive nature of this phenomenon, which impedes progress towards gender equality and undermines the fundamental rights and dignity of individuals.

Addressing GBV requires multifaceted approaches that prioritize prevention, protection, and support for survivors. Education plays a pivotal role in challenging harmful gender norms and fostering respectful relationships based on equality and consent. By promoting gender-sensitive curricula and awareness campaigns, we can empower individuals to recognize and confront GBV in their communities, fostering a culture of zero tolerance for violence.

Moreover, robust legal frameworks and enforcement mechanisms are indispensable in holding perpetrators accountable and ensuring access to justice for survivors. Legislative reforms aimed at criminalizing GBV, enhancing victim support services, and strengthening law enforcement responses are critical steps towards eradicating impunity and fostering a culture of accountability.

Equally important is the provision of comprehensive support services that address the diverse needs of survivors, including medical care, psychosocial support, legal aid, and economic empowerment initiatives. By investing in survivor-centered approaches, we can facilitate healing and recovery while mitigating the long-term consequences of GBV on individuals and communities.

Collaboration between governments, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders is essential for achieving meaningful progress in the fight against GBV. By fostering partnerships and sharing best practices, we can leverage collective expertise and resources to implement effective interventions that address the root causes of violence and promote gender equality.

As we commemorate International Women’s Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to ending GBV in all its forms. Together, we must strive towards a future where every individual, regardless of gender, can live free from violence and discrimination, and where gender equality is not merely an aspiration but a reality for all.

 In response to these challenges, Broken Chalk is launching a comprehensive initiative to raise awareness, advocate for policy change, and provide support to survivors of gender-based violence. Through educational programs, community outreach, and advocacy efforts, Broken Chalk aims to challenge societal norms, dismantle systemic barriers, and promote a culture of equality and respect.

Join us in our mission to break down barriers and create a world where every woman can live free from fear and violence.

Happy International Women’s Day!

Signed by

Broken Chalk

https://brokenchalk.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/International_Womens_Day_2024_Press_Release_Eng.pdf

  • Sources
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  • OXFAM International (2018). Ten harmful beliefs that perpetuate violence against women and girls. Available at https://www.oxfam.org/en/ten-harmful-beliefs-perpetuate-violence-against-women-and-girls  
  • Council of Europe, Gender Matter, What causes Gender-Based Violence? Available at https://www.coe.int/en/web/gender-matters/what-causes-gender-based-violence
  • OHCHR, (2014). Eliminating judicial stereotyping: Equal access to justice for women in gender-based violence cases. Available at https://www.ohchr.org/sites/default/files/Documents/Issues/Women/WRGS/OnePagers/Gender_stereotyping.pdf. 
  • HRC, General comment No. 36 (2018) on article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, on the right to life (2018).
  • Lagarde, M., EH Russell, D.,  & A Harmes, R., (2006)  Feminicidio: Una Perspectiva Global (Ceiich 2006) 76.
  • CEDAW, General recommendation No. 35 on gender-based violence against women, updating general recommendation No. 19, (2017).
  • UNODC, (2023). ‘Gender-related killings of women and girls (femicide/feminicide)’ https://www.unwomen.org/sites/default/files/2023-11/gender-related-killings-of-women-and-girls-femicide-feminicide-global-estimates-2022-en.pdf>.
  • Afrouz, R., & Robinson, K. (2022). Domestic and Family Violence for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities in Australia during COVID-19 Pandemic. Practice, 1–20. https://doi.org/10.1080/09503153.2022.2114443
  • Dunkle, K. L., & Decker, M. R. (2012). Gender-Based violence and HIV: Reviewing the evidence for links and causal pathways in the general population and high-risk groups. American Journal of Reproductive Immunology, 69, 20–26. https://doi.org/10.1111/aji.12039
  • Heise, L. (1994). Gender-based abuse: the Global Epidemic. Cadernos de Saúde Pública, 10(suppl 1), S135–S145. https://doi.org/10.1590/s0102-311×1994000500009
  • Ozcurumez, S. (2020). Sexual and gender-based violence and social trauma. Social Trauma – an Interdisciplinary Textbook, 279–285. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-47817-9_29

Advocating for Zero Discrimination in Education on United Nations Zero Discrimination Day

Written by Gianna Chen and Panashe Marie Louise Mlambo

March 1 marks a significant day on the global calendar as the world commemorates United Nations Zero Discrimination Day. Led by the United Nations (UN) and supported by various international organisations, this annual observance aims to champion equality before the law and in practice across all UN member countries. Since its inception on March 1, 2014, Zero Discrimination Day has been a rallying cry for advocates and activists worldwide, urging society to confront and eliminate discrimination in all its forms. This year, Broken Chalk stands in solidarity with the UN and other organisations in this crucial endeavour.

Zero Discrimination Day is not just a symbolic gesture; it’s a call to action for all of us to actively combat discrimination and foster a more inclusive and equitable world. The significance of Zero Discrimination Day is particularly poignant for organisations like UNAIDS, which combat discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS. Act as a reminder for worldwide leaders to withhold their commitment to protecting human rights. Discrimination remains a pervasive issue, hindering progress and perpetuating inequality in communities around the world.

Discrimination in education remains a pervasive issue globally, depriving countless individuals of their fundamental right to learn in an inclusive and equitable environment. On this important day, Broken Chalk reaffirms its commitment to challenging discriminatory practices and fostering a culture of acceptance and respect within educational institutions worldwide.

At Broken Chalk, we believe that education should be a beacon of hope and opportunity for all, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, or any other characteristic, a sentiment held by the Broken Chalk shareholders, interns, and volunteers. Zero Discrimination Day serves as a reminder of the urgent need to address discriminatory barriers that hinder access and perpetuate inequality.

As we reflect on the importance of Zero Discrimination Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to building a world where we treat every individual with dignity, respect, and equality. Together, we can create a future where discrimination has no place, and every person has the opportunity to reach their full potential.” Panashe Marie Louise Mlambo

On United Nations Zero Discrimination Day, let us come together to reaffirm our commitment to building a world where every individual has the opportunity to learn, grow, and thrive, free from discrimination.

Broken Chalk calls for recognition of the importance of access to education in the mother language

Written by Luzi Maj Leonhardt, Dooyum Stephanie Tseke, Sara Rossomonte

Today, on the International Day of the Mother Language, the acknowledgement and advancement of the mother language in education, and social and cultural development are inevitable.  

International Mother Language Day was first introduced by the UNESCO initiative of Bangladesh, at the 1999 General Conference. Since then, it was established by the UN General Assembly, and its importance was formalized as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  

However, limitations in access to education in the mother language remain, as approximately 40% of the global population lacks this fundamental right. In some regions, these numbers even go up to 90% of the population, according to the UN.  Access to education in the student’s mother language fosters an inclusive learning environment, which welcomes indigenous and minority groups and leads to better learning outcomes, especially in the early stages of education.  Broken Chalk recognises the need to address the issue of a lack of native language representation in education in many countries worldwide. Especially the educational sector in countries with a colonial or foreign administrative past continues to be strongly influenced by their language of instruction.  Broken Chalks strongly supports the creation of accessible and high-quality educational materials in the native languages of various countries.

The importance of mother language in education cannot be overstated. In most sub-Saharan African countries, approximately 85% of students receive instruction in a language other than their native tongue (UNESCO, 2017). Nigeria, a nation with over 600 different languages, solely employs English as the language of instruction in primary schools, prohibiting the use of local languages that are deemed informal.

Similarly, many Asian societies, formerly under colonial rule, such as the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia, and Indonesia, only began actively promoting their national languages after World War II. In Sri Lanka, Tamil was officially recognised as an official language in 1978, yet English has become the predominant language in recent years.

The absence of mother tongue instruction in education leads to knowledge gaps, particularly at the primary and secondary levels, hindering effective learning and exacerbating inequality and discrimination against diverse cultures, resulting in low student enrolment rates. Broken Chalk calls for urgent investments to lower the educational gaps of children with speak in their mother language.

Ethiopian schools have introduced instruction in students’ native tongues, resulting in significant improvements, including a half-year increase in education attainment and a 40% rise in the likelihood of students reading complete sentences (Rajesh, 2017). Similarly, the Bolivian Campaign for the Right to Education (CBDE) advocates for inclusive educational approaches, particularly for the indigenous population. Broken Chalk believes that education is crucial to working towards the elimination of discrimination against indigenous populations.

Children benefit from embracing both their own and others’ cultural identities while using the same language, as exemplified in Zimbabwe, where the government has prioritised mother tongue education. However, challenges persist globally, including inadequate funding for minority language education, lack of standardised teaching materials, and qualified teachers for indigenous languages. Colonial language policies contribute to linguistic inequality and marginalisation, necessitating governments and educational institutions to prioritise mother languages in curriculum development and teacher training programs. Funding is essential to preserve endangered languages and promote multilingualism through bilingual education initiatives. Broken Chalk calls for the allocation of more funding to promote multilingualism in education.

At Broken Chalk,celebrating World Mother Language Day reaffirms our commitment to cultural diversity and acknowledges the value and heritage of all languages. In addition to efforts being made globally, Broken Chalk will continue to publish articles in different languages to encourage and advocate for Cultural and Language Diversity.

Broken Chalk announces it to the public with due respect. 

Signed, 

Broken Chalk 

Red Hand Day Marks Urgent Call to End the Use of Child Soldiers

As the world observes an increase in conflicts across the globe, the use of child soldiers remains a reality on this day February 12. From the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and in the Gaza Strip, to the escalating violence following Afghanistan’s political upheaval after Taliban’s takeover, the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic further destabilise regions like Yemen, amplifying the risk of conflict. In Somalia, conflict-related deaths have reached a five-year high, while many other countries struggle with prolonged crises that are frequently disregarded by the international community. Amidst this turmoil, the most vulnerable suffer the gravest injustices. Boys and girls are coerced into combat, exploited for labour, and subjected to unimaginable horrors. Despite a UN treaty prohibiting the involvement of children under 18 in hostilities, there has been a lack of enforcement from the international community.

Children continue to be embroiled in armed conflicts across numerous nations. Their lives are characterised by peril, deprivation, and fear. Stripped of their innocence, they face the constant threat of ambushes, landmines, and gunfire, their existence devoid of basic necessities like food, water, and healthcare. Subjected to brutal discipline, many children perish under inhumane conditions, while others survive with lifelong physical or psychological scars, with girls, comprising a significant portion of child soldiers, endure additional horrors, including sexual violence and exploitation. The reality is that children are robbed of their childhoods, and forced into roles no child should ever have to bear.

Hence, the Red Hand Day, or the International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers campaign is a rallying call for action: urging governments, organisations, individuals, and the international community to confront this reality and provoke change. The history of Red Hand Day traces back to February 12, 2002, when the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict came into force. This protocol, also known as the “Paris Principles,” reaffirmed the international community’s stance against the recruitment and use of children in armed conflicti. The protocol established 18 as the minimum age for compulsory recruitment and participation in hostilities, with the aim of shielding children from the horrors of war and ensuring their access to education, health, and a safe environmentii.


Release of child soldiers. UNMISS/Nektarios Markogiannis. On Flickr.

At Broken Chalk, we stand in solidarity with the global community on Red Hand Day. We believe that every child, regardless of their circumstances, deserves equal access to quality education in a safe environment. Red Hand Day serves as a reminder of the ongoing challenges faced by more than 7622 children who are recruited as soldiers and deprived of their fundamental right to education (as estimated in a 2022 Annual Reportiii of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict to the UN General Assembly).

As we commemorate Red Hand Day, Broken Chalk is committed to advocating for policies and initiatives that prioritise the end of recruitment and use of children in armed conflict to fully implement the Paris Commitment. Moreover, we advocate for the protection, safety, financial support, peaceful education, reintegration, and support of children affected by armed conflict, ensuring that they can learn, grow, and thrive. Nevertheless, more actions need to be taken to hold accountable those who are responsible, in compliance with international humanitarian law, specifically the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Together, we can work towards a world where the red hands of child soldiers are replaced with books and pens, symbolising hope, resilience, and the promise of a brighter future.

Broken Chalk announces it to the public with due respect.

Signed,

Broken Chalk


i Human Rights Watch (n.d.). The Red Hand Day Campaign One million red hands against the use of child soldiers RESOURCE PACK. Available at https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/related_material/childsoldierresource.pdf

ii Red Hand Day: The suffering of the child soldiers. Red Hand Day. Available at https://www.redhandday.org/en/hintergrund

iii Children and armed conflict (2023, June 27). Report of the Secretary-General. Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict. Available at https://childrenandarmedconflict.un.org/document/secretary-general-annual-report-on-children-and-armed-conflict-2/

Press Release: International Day for Education

Children in classroom with food

On the 24th of January, the world celebrates the importance of education for peace and development with the International Day of Education. In light of this celebration, Broken Chalk reiterates the importance of education as a human right, and reaffirms its mission to address human rights violations in the educational field today. 

UNESCO has declared the theme for this year ”Learning for Lasting Peace” and is dedicating this year’s International Day of Education to the crucial role education and teachers play in countering hate speech. Education is a powerful tool that has the potential to influence future societies. If inclusive and of quality, it promotes understanding, tolerance, and peaceful coexistence among individuals and communities.

Today, a staggering 250 million children and youth find themselves out of school, while 763 million adults grapple with illiteracy. Access to education is highly unequal, meaning not every child has the same opportunity for development. Broken Chalk deems this situation unacceptable, recognizing that the right to education is being violated on a massive scale.

Broken Chalk reiterates its commitment towards Goal 4 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDG4), in ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education. Considering the theme of International Day of Education 2024, “Learning for Lasting Peace”, Broken Chalk recognises that the worryingly high number of international conflicts in the last year has detrimentally affected the ability of people to access equitable and quality education. Broken Chalk calls for all stakeholders to do their utmost to focus on peaceful resolutions and policies in order to allow for greater educational accessibility and peace for students around the world.

On this International Day of Education, it is essential to recognise the importance of teachers for their role in the journey towards inclusive and equitable education. Regrettably, there is a growing shortage of teachers across the world, significantly impacting educational access and quality. Broken Chalk commits to continuing its practice of publishing “Educational Challenges” articles. Broken Chalk hopes that these articles will bring to light the difficulties teachers and other stakeholders face in their respective countries. By ensuring that the narrative around education development is broadened to include the perspectives and challenges of teachers, Broken Chalk believes that there will be more significant progress towards achieving universal education accessibility, quality and equity.

In addition to its ongoing efforts, Broken Chalk will publish several articles in celebration of the International Day of Education. Broken Chalk will continue to raise awareness, encourage dialogue, address human rights violations in education, and drive action to achieve quality education for all. 

Broken Chalk announces it to the public with due respect.

Signed,

Broken Chalk

World Children’s Day 2023

In A Theory of Justice, John Rawls contends that political institutions should prioritise the rights of the most vulnerable in society. World Children’s Day, first established in 1954, affirms that priority. It affirms children’s rights to engage in discourses which influence their communities. It allows parents, teachers, community leaders, and young adults to consider what they can do to improve the lives of young(er) people around them. In this way, World Children’s Day is an excellent moment for reflecting upon the state of children worldwide–and for taking action to change it. In this press release, Broken Chalk reports on human rights abuses against children in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ukraine, and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. 

The Democratic Republic of Congo

As of June 2023, 2,420 children had been killed, maimed, abducted and sexually violated in The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) (Save The Children, 2023). These atrocities emerged from the ongoing political conflict between M23, the government, and paramilitary groups. The collapse of government infrastructure makes Congo’s population–which has a median age of 16–extremely vulnerable to abduction, induction into military groups, sexual violence, and death. The prevalence of ‘street children’, as locals call them, throughout Congo captures a central dimension of human rights violations against children in Congo.

Street Children

Rape and sexual violence are standard methods of warfare employed by Congolese paramilitary groups. The victims often face immense shame from their communities (Humanium, 2020). In many cases, these rapes result in unwanted pregnancies. To distance themselves from these traumatic events–and social shame– women will often abandon their children. As a result, these abandoned children are forced to live on the streets/forests with other orphans (Humanium, 2020). Once in these groups, they are confronted with a new social hierarchy: competition with older (sexually exploitative/exploited) children, gangs, and insurgent groups. In addition to these grave circumstances, they are often used for cheap child labour (Humanium, 2020). Children are ‘saved’ from the chaos of the streets by armed groups, where they are trained as soldiers. In turn, the children are taught to reproduce the cycle of violence and exploitation which constrained them. 

Child Soldiers

According to Relief Web (2023), “The DRC had the highest number of child abductions globally”, sometimes as young as five years old. In 2023, 730 children were kidnapped from their homes (Save The Children, 2023). Furthermore, 1,600 children have been recruited by armed groups (France24, 2023). Child soldiers are subject to a tragic nexus of sexual and physical abuse. The infamous practice of holding children as “fetish keepers” is particularly appalling. Confident children are recruited because they believe they possess magic powers (Humanium, 2020). The recruits undergo a ceremonial abdominal cut. Those who survive this trial are put on the front lines of combat due to their apparent powers (Save The Children, 2023). 

A report by the International Peace Support Training Center (IPSTC) found that over 90% of child soldiers had witnessed extreme violence and murder (IPSTC, 2013, p.8). Furthermore, approximately ⅓ of child soldiers have experienced sexual abuse, while almost 80% have been maimed (IPSTC, 2013, p.8). In the wake of these facts, the government has committed to preventing child recruitment into military forces  (United Nations, 2017). For example, in 2013, 30,000 child soldiers were freed from the armed forces (ICC, 2013, p.2). Nevertheless, re-recruitment into these forces remains a serious issue. 

Education

The DRC has committed to securing free primary education for its citizens, allowing over 4.5 million children to attend school (U.S. Agency for International Development, n.d.). So far, it has produced a literacy rate of 80 % (89.5% males and 70.8% females) (Central Intelligence Agency, 2023). In 2015, the IRC, Global TIES for Children, and the DRC government jointly pursued four goals: (1) teacher training, (2) community mobilisation, (3) vocational training, and (4) professional development (rescue, 2015). By 2016, students’ reading, geometry, and numeracy scores had increased (New York University & International Rescue Committee, 2015). However, poverty and warfare continue to strain the DRC’s education system. 

The DRC’s commitment to free primary education eventually collapsed because of insufficient funding. The program depended on parents’ income, which could not support teachers’ salaries (usaid.gov). In turn, military conflict has forced millions of children to flee their homes–and schools.

Ukraine

On February 24th 2022, Russia started its invasion of Ukraine. Since then, over 3,000 schools have been destroyed, 7 million children have been displaced, 9,701 civilians have been killed, and 17,748 have been injured (United Nations, 2023). Russia’s relentless airstrikes and on-ground military operations constitute numerous human rights violations. According to a report published by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry in Ukraine, these violations include “unlawful attacks with explosive weapons…torture, sexual and gender-based violence, and transfers and deportations of children” (IICIU, 2023). Children in Ukraine face a unique set of human rights violations of the Convention on The Rights of The Child (CRC).

Education

The Ukrainian constitution affirms that “everyone has the right to education” (Human et al., 2023, p.58). Ukraine further recognises education as a human right, providing that “…international humanitarian law envisages [that]:… the right of children to receive an education shall be guaranteed” (Human et al., 2023, p.58). However, Russian forces have eroded (at best) and wholly decimated (at worst) Ukraine’s educational infrastructure. 

There are reports of Russian military forces using schools as military infrastructure.  In “Tanks on The Playground”, Human Rights Watch found that the Russian troops had commandeered a school in Izium. Eventually, a fire-fight between the Russian and Ukrainian military caused a fire which burned it down. There have also been reports of Russian forces stealing supplies from and hanging swastika insignias within schools. Online education has also been attempted–even though Russian attacks on power generators have severely restricted internet access. Nevertheless, the Ukrainian Ministry of Education reports that +95% of students were enrolled in schools (Human et al., 2023b).

Trafficking 

The mass displacement of Ukrainian children has also increased the prevalence of human trafficking. Traffickers take advantage of and foment chaos at the borders, where children become separated from family members and are ultimately abducted (Siegfried, 2022). Traffickers include private and public bodies. The Yale School of Public Health found that Russian forces were abducting children and sending them to re-education camps (Viswanathan, 2023). Putin claims these transfers were conducted legally and saved their lives (Dickinson, 2023). Ukrainian officials have identified close to 20,000 victims, spread across Russia’s 40 camps, located from Crimea to Siberia. 

Palestine – Education amidst suffering, fear and occupation

 The recent events unfolding in Palestine have brought everything to a halt. Since the beginning of the occupation, Palestinian citizens have experienced numerous forms of suffering at the hands of Israeli authorities. Nevertheless, the current conflict has not only aggravated the fear and pain of Palestinian men and women but also prevented the proper development of future Palestinian generations.

  Education represents a significant element of Palestinian society. According to UNICEF, 95.4% of Palestinian children have been enrolled in primary education. However, the statistics fail to tackle an ongoing challenge: school access. While the enrollment percentage presents a chance for a bright future for Palestinian children, the reality on the ground seems different. Vulnerable categories such as adolescent children with disabilities are more likely to drop out of school, with  22.5% of boys and 30% of girls with disabilities aged 6-15 never even enrolling in schools (UNICEF, 2018). 

  Moreover, due to the ongoing tensions in the Palestinian territories, half a million children are in dire need of humanitarian assistance to access quality education. The volatile environment and repetitive violent episodes of escalation around the West Bank and Gaza Strip, alongside restrictions imposed by Israeli authorities, pose further threats and challenges to the protection of children’s rights within the Palestinian Territories. Furthermore, the violations of children’s rights in Palestine not only sabotage the ability of children to learn and develop their potential but also enhance mental health issues, with fear, distress and intimidation impacting their everyday lives (OCHA, 2017).

 While statistics bring an unparalleled contribution to the situation on the ground, they nevertheless fail to tackle the experiences of Palestinian children and citizens. In a recent article published by Al Jazeera, Ruwaida Amer, a science teacher at a local school in Gaza, describes the war’s impact on her everyday life.  “For me, it is an almost maternal relationship between me and my students, and it extends beyond schoolwork”, she recalls.  Since the government announced the suspension of the 2023-2024 school year, she has been unable to meet her students. She thoughtfully describes how her teaching career developed into something more than a teacher-student relationship. “They have this knack for making me laugh even when I am annoyed at their naughtiness – I cannot keep a straight face”, she fondly remembers. However, with the brink of the Israeli offensive within the territories of Palestine, the situation has changed. Now, all the beautiful experiences that she had with them are but mere memories. “I miss their morning sleepiness. I miss their naughtiness.  I miss hearing them shout “Miss!” when I greet them. I want this war to stop so I can go back to getting to know them.” (Amer et al., 2023)


References 

Central Intelligence Agency. (2023). Congo, Democratic Republic of the – The World Factbook. https://www.cia.gov/the-world-factbook/countries/congo-democratic-republic-of-the/#people-and-society

Dickinson, P. D. (2023, July 27). Russia’s mass abduction of Ukrainian children may qualify as genocide. Atlantic Council. https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/russias-mass-abduction-of-ukrainian-children-may-qualify-as-genocide/

Education | Democratic Republic of the Congo | U.S. Agency for International Development. U.S. Agency For International Development. (n.d.-b). Education | Democratic Republic of the Congo | U.S. Agency for International Development. https://www.usaid.gov/democratic-republic-congo/education#:~:text=Free%20primary%20education%20is%20becoming,of%20teachers%20tended%20to%20decrease.

France24. (2023, September 8). Violence makes eastern DR Congo “worst place” for children : 

UN. France 24. https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20230908-violence-makes-eastern-dr-congo-worst-place-for-children-un

Human Rights Watch. (2023). “Tanks on the Playground” Attacks on Schools and Military Use of Schools in Ukraine.

Human Rights Watch. (2023b, November 9). Ukraine: War’s Toll on Schools, Children’s Future. Human Rights Watch. https://www.hrw.org/news/2023/11/09/ukraine-wars-toll-schools-childrens-future#:~:text=Russia%27s%20full%2Dscale%20invasion%20of,are%20attacks%20on%20their%20future

Independent International Commission of Inquiry in Ukraine. (2023). Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine. OHCHR. https://www.ohchr.org/sites/default/files/documents/hrbodies/hrcouncil/coiukraine/A_HRC_52_62_AUV_EN.pdf

IPSTC. (2013). Reintegration of Child Soldiers in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. International Criminal Court.

New York University & International Rescue Committee. (2015). Opportunities for Equitable Access to Quality Basic Education (OPEQ): Final Report on the Impact of the OPEQ Intervention in the Democratic Republic of Congo. https://www.rescue.org/sites/default/files/document/642/ed-opportunitiesforequitableaccesstoqualitybasiceducation.pdf

Opportunities for Equitable Access to Quality Basic Education (OPEQ): Final report on the impact of the OPEQ intervention in the Democratic Republic of Congo. (2015). rescue.org.https://www.rescue.org/report/opportunities-equitable-access-quality-basic-education-opeq-final-report-impact-opeq

Prashad, J. P. (2020, May 19). Children of the Democratic Republic of the Congo – Humanium. Humanium. https://www.humanium.org/en/democratic-republic-congo/

Save The Children. (2023, June 27). DRC remains the epicentre of a child suffering in war as the country tops the world list of grave violations against children – the Democratic Republic of the Congo. ReliefWeb.  

Siegried, K. S. (2022, April 13). Ukraine crisis creates new trafficking risks. UNHCR. https://www.unhcr.org/news/stories/ukraine-crisis-creates-new-trafficking-risks

United Nations. (2023, September 24). Ukraine: Civilian Casualty Update 24 September 2023. ohchr.org. https://www.ohchr.org/en/news/2023/09/ukraine-civilian-casualty-update-24-september-2023#:~:text=From%2024%20February%202022%2C%20which,9%2C701%20killed%20and%2017%2C748%20injured.

United Nations. (2017). Grave Violations. childrenandarmedconflict.un.org. https://childrenandarmedconflict.un.org/where-we-work/democratic-republic-of-the-congo/

N/D. “State of Palestine:  Out-of-school children”. UNICEF. 2018. Date of access: 18.11.2023 https://www.unicef.org/mena/reports/state-palestine-out-school-children

N/D. “Occupied Palestinian Territory: Humanitarian Needs Overview 2018, November 2017”. OCHA. 2017. Date of access: 18.11.2023 https://reliefweb.int/report/occupied-palestinian-territory/occupied-palestinian-territory-humanitarian-needs-overview-2

Amer. Ruwaida. “In this relentless war, oh, how I miss my students”. Al Jazeera. 2023. Date of access: 18.11.2023

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/11/12/in-this-relentless-war-oh-how-i-miss-my-students

Viswanathan, G. V. (2023, February 22). YSPH research reveals relocation and re-education of Ukrainian children – Yale Daily News. Yale Daily News. https://yaledailynews.com/blog/2023/02/22/ysph-research-reveals-relocation-and-re-education-of-ukrainian-children/

International Migrants Day

18th December 2023

The United Nations (UN) estimates that 281 million people live outside their country of origin, 15% of whom are children. Individuals have always moved in search of new, better life opportunities. On International Migrants Day, Broken Chalk celebrates migration as humanity’s inherent and fundamental characteristic. Education is both a powerful tool for integration into host societies and a driver for migration, with families migrating to seek better educational opportunities for their children and thousands of young people migrating annually to pursue university degrees.

In situations of displacement, children and young people often experience difficulties accessing education, especially if they have an uncertain legal status. Schools are often compelled by migration authorities to detect, detain and deport undocumented migrant children and their families. Schools might also refuse to enrol migrants. However, the legal principle of non-discrimination establishes that all persons residing in the territory of a state, regardless of their legal status, must be guaranteed access to education. Broken Chalk calls for respect for the principle of non-discrimination to the right to education, regardless of a person’s legal status.

Denial of access to education, discrimination, or bullying is often a reflection of xenophobic and racist attitudes in the host country. Education must be recognised as a powerful driver for social cohesion, where children from diverse backgrounds coexist from an early age. Moreover, schools must address discrimination and bullying towards foreigners, and policies must ensure equal access to opportunities. In addition to this, migrant teachers should have their qualifications recognised so they can actively use their first language to help newcomers integrate. For instance, the EU Action Plan on Integration and Inclusion 2021-2027 acknowledges the need for more recognition of foreign qualifications. Broken Chalk highlights that a lack of effective integration, as well as forms of discrimination towards newcomers, can result in school drop-out, which might lead to social exclusion and have lifelong consequences.

The 2030 Agenda recognises migrants as a vulnerable group whose rights must be addressed and must be empowered persons. While migration might be seen as a stage of growth for some, for others, migration could be due to the adverse effects of conflict, climate change, and labour markets. Within the sustainable development goals, target 10.7, “reduce inequality in and among countries” to “facilitate orderly, safe, and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies”, is a direct reference to migration. This Sustainable Development Goal provides an opportunity for mobile populations to be empowered. By investing in their empowerment, we cultivate beneficial persons for their personal growth and for the greater good of humanity. Broken Chalk urges countries to be diligent and execute carefully formulated and well-administered migration policies.

Within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), most children migrate irregularly. Irregular child migrants are at a heightened risk of being subject to trafficking, sexual exploitation, detention or being engaged in informal labour. In 2019, ASEAN leaders adopted the ASEAN Declaration on the Rights of Children in the Context of Migration and subsequently implemented the Regional Plan of Action. This laid out core principles to address the vulnerabilities faced by children in the context of migration. The initiative by ASEAN encompasses collective action to strengthen national systems for children in matters including but not limited to child protection, education, psychosocial support, health, safe environment and justice. Broken Chalk appeals to leaders, policymakers, and other stakeholders to pay heed to the voices of migrant children and make informed decisions for the future.

We must take a pledge to provide them with the tools not only to survive but to thrive in their journey across borders. This International Migrants Day, let the term migrants be synonymous with resilience, innovation and, most importantly, global empowerment.

Broken Chalk announces it to the public with due respect.

Signed,

Broken Chalk

Press Release: #Act4RightsNow! Broken Chalk calls on everybody to stand up for educational rights and human rights education all over the world

December 10, 2023

Human Rights Day

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “All humans are born free and equal”. This December 10th, we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) as a milestone for universally protected freedom, equality, and justice. The document implies 30 rights and freedoms guaranteed to every human being regardless of nationality, gender, origin, religion, language, political or other status.

After the Second World War, countries from all regions and diverse cultural and political contexts came together and recognised these fundamental human rights for the first time in history in December 1948, 75 years ago. Even though the declaration is not binding, it depicts the basis for international human rights law, and many countries enshrined its meanings into their national constitutions. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been translated into more than 500 languages, making it the most translated document in the world. Together, this reflects its importance for every one of us.

In times of political rupture, Broken Chalk calls for the protection of fundamental and universal Human Rights. Political actors must stand together in the fight for justice, equality, and dignity of the people in this world.

Regrettably, as we observe this significant day, the shadows of colonisation and exploitation persist, particularly impacting populations in the Global South. In this regard, Broken Chalk extends our solidarity to the oppressed and reaffirms the importance of eliminating all forms of human rights violations or restrictions. The struggles against the alarming violations happening around the globe, notably in Palestine, Sudan, Congo, and where people are fighting for their rights, remind us that collective efforts are key to addressing these issues. As the famous saying goes, no one is free until everyone is free. The right to education will only be secured and accessible for everyone if the fundamental rights can be enjoyed.

For this reason, Broken Chalk keeps working in the area of advocacy and lobbying on behalf of educational victims, preparing reports to raise awareness of unseen human rights violations. Throughout this year, Broken Chalk has diligently released articles on educational challenges in different countries, submitted reports to echo the calls of the United Nations for input, and drafted press releases for human rights-related commemorations. We also maintain active relationships with international organisations sharing similar mandates and causes, thereby contributing to a broader advocacy network. On this special day, we celebrate our ongoing commitment to this cause and pay tribute to all human rights defenders who work under threats, censorship, and distress. They deserve the utmost respect and acknowledgement.

Nevertheless, human rights action is not only the responsibility of political actors and human rights defenders. As the fight for human rights never ends, Broken Chalk encourages everybody to stand up for their human rights and the rights of others. We strongly call for action in your daily life, including at the workplace and school.

Building on the achievements of these 75 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), while recognising the urgent need to address human rights violations still perpetrated around the world, we raise our voice to call upon all humanity to incessantly commit to human rights protection in all fields, especially education.

We consider an informed human rights action to be powerfully effective. In this respect, education plays a fundamental and transformative role for the present and next generations. Using human rights education, a spirit of respect for human dignity takes root both in the personal development of everybody and in social common understanding. As more investments are necessary to ensure the right to quality education for all, so must we invest in shared values and beliefs that safeguard us throughout life.

As the fourth phase of the World Programme for Human Rights Education unfolds, Broken Chalk advocates for compulsory human rights education in school curricula worldwide, in line with Target 7 of SDG 4. We believe that increasing knowledge about human rights is the launching pad to a brighter future where we can fully enjoy our rights.

Broken Chalk announces it to the public with due respect.

Signed,

Broken Chalk


Written by Eliana Riggi, Leyang Fu, & Luzi Maj Leonhardt.