Universal Periodic Review of Montenegro

  • Montenegro’s roughly 620 thousand population has somewhat multicultural assets with approximately 20 to 30 thousand Roma people and a significant Egyptian and Askhaeli community. 
  • As the 2018 Civil Rights Defenders’ report highlights, there is a systematic discrimination against minority groups in Montenegro which affects all aspects of their lives. This is reflected in high unemployment rates, low enrolment rates in educational institutions, and poor living conditions. 
  • Roma and Egyptian children are disadvantaged in the education system, and their attendance rate and enrolment rates in educational institutions reflects this. For instance, only 190 Roma children were attending in preschool in 2017, although it is an improvement compared to the previous year where 103 was enrolled in preschool. 
  • The high primary school drop-out rate of 11% among Roma and Egyptian children further demonstrates the seriousness of the issue, as only 49% of Roma children enrol in secondary education.
  • According to the National Platform on Roma Integration Montenegro report in 2018, the country was recommended to work more on the inclusiveness of Roma people in education and to enhance their social and academic chances to achievement. 1860 Roma children were enrolled in primary school in 2018, while their number was only 1622 in 2017 which shows positive patterns in terms of enrolment. As for secondary school, their number reached 142 in 2018, which also shows improvements compared to the 112 students who were enrolled in 2017. However, only 27 Roma students studied at the university level in 2018.
  • It is also common, that children from lower socioeconomic background have difficulties in accessing education and are more likely to drop out of school. Socioeconomic status also often collides with ethnicity, meaning that many Roma and Egyptian children have difficulties in accessing educational facilities and institutions. They often cannot afford to buy the necessary equipment for school, neither can they pay for transportation, while children having to help parents to make ends meet is not uncommon either.
  • To increase the number of enrolled students and to reduce dropout rates, it is important to support families and communities coming from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Providing free transportation to school and mediators, especially for Roma and Egyptian children, can have a significantly positive impact on enrolment rates.
  • Broken Chalk welcomes the government’s efforts in taking measures to provide scholarships and mentoring programs to children from low socioeconomic background to enhance their enrolment rate in schools and universities. 
  • Child labour in Montenegro is also a serious issue. Children are frequently forced to beg on the streets or are subject to sexual exploitation and all forms of human trafficking. 
  • Montenegro has taken some steps to combat this issue, such as introducing a new labour law that regulates the working conditions of minors. The government has also increased the budget allocated for labour inspections to investigate the working conditions of minors. However, the research found that programs directed to stop children’s work on the streets like forced begging are not effective. The state did take some steps to deal with victims of trafficking, such as establishing an identification team for victims and an operational team that helps to tackle human trafficking. 
  • Despite all efforts, there is still a lot to improve, particularly regarding the legal system which would need special legal advisors who are equipped with the necessary skills to deal with human trafficking cases, especially when they involve minors.
  • Another crucial issue to address is corporal punishment against children in schools and in households in Montenegro. While laws and regulations prohibit such practices in all settings, it is still not entirely eliminated. To ensure the safety and rights of children, Montenegro adopted changes in schools, primary health care, and social services in this regard, especially after research showed that the suicide rates and drug abuse are higher among those who experienced physical abuse during their childhood.

By Noor Mousa

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Universal Periodic Review of Ghana

Ghana’s educational system is structurally and underdeveloped. There is widespread violence and discrimination and overall violations of human rights. It must address the educational challenges it faces. Its many challenges and obstacles in education that need to be addressed and dealt with in terms of finance, structure, administration, and management, combating wrongful actions committed against students, the presence of discrimination, violence, and lack of rights. This summary review will outline the country’s performance since the last 3d cycle recommendations.

By Noor Mousa

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Universal Periodic Review of Bahrain

Universal Periodic Review of Bahrain

The main issues in education in Bahrain include violations of freedom of expression, sexual abuse, social stigmas, access to educaiton and the quality of education. The Bahrain authorities practice sectarian discrimination against opponents, violating in turn the right to education of many people according to the Bahrain Center of Human Rights.

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Educational Challenges in Syria

The Borgen Project: ‘The Education Crisis in Syria’ accessible in <https://borgenproject.org/education-crisis-in-syria/>

Syria’s educational system has faced challenges for a long time, but the situation improved before the war’s outbreak in 2011. In the decades that preceded the crisis, the educational sector in Syria was witnessing improvements concerning school and university enrolments. Nevertheless, the Syrian government was, at the time, taking initiatives and showing interest in fighting illiteracy as well as increasing the number of primary and preparatory schools throughout the country. 

Following the outbreak of the civil war, Syrian children of all ages were left without access to education. According to recent data published, there are more than 2.4 million Syrian children currently out of school.


Syrian children are currently facing several challenges that make it extremely difficult to attend their school or continue their education. The conflict has led to people’s displacement from their homes, poverty, and the inability of families to pay for school materials. In addition, the Syrian civil war has dangerously normalized and dramatically increased the issue of child labour. The stories shared by some of the affected children highlight the gravity of their situation. Issa, a 12-year-old boy, expressed his feeling of bitterness when he could not attend school for years after his family was displaced due to the war. Or Salim, a victim of displacement and child labour who was forced to seek refuge in Lebanon, where he currently works daily carrying potato bags. 

Albeit the employment of children under the age of 15 is illegal under Syrian legislation, no prominent governmental initiatives have been taken in the past few years to address this issue. However, UNICEF is taking steps to tackle the problem by adopting and implementing friendly policies designed to assist Syrian children in the enjoyment of their rights. 

A 2012 International Labour Organisation report recommended the Syrian national legislation to reform and impose further regulatory norms in the field of children’s work. The report also highlights how Syrian penalty laws are not severe enough to prevent employers from hiring children. Although the Syrian crisis slowed down the ILO’s work, in 2018, it adopted a ‘multi-sectoral approach’ to prevent child labour. This approach is meant to protect children’s rights to education and livelihood. It is also led and coordinated by several parties, including the Syrian Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour, as well as the United Nations. Perhaps this multi-sided tactic, including a governmental representative, will reduce the number of children who are working rather than attending school. 

Unfortunately, Syria’s educational system faces other challenges as well. One of these is the limited access to electricity. The electrical energy infrastructure in Syria was damaged severely after the crisis, leaving most cities in the country, such as Aleppo and Damascus, without electricity for most hours of the day. Most schools in Syria were affected, and students had to struggle in dark classrooms. However, the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) and UNICEF intervened in some places and saved the situation. For instance, in Aleppo, ECHO and UNICEF supplied 30 schools with solar panels, a successful step that positively changed the situation for students and teachers.

Nonetheless, implementing solar panels in all schools throughout the country is lengthy and costly. Since students of all age groups need electricity at home to prepare for exams, it would also fail to solve the issue in its entirety. The situation is undoubtedly precarious, but the government can take initiatives to assist students to study in more adequate conditions. Both the UN and ECHO could provide public city libraries with solar panels for electricity generation. This would allow students to learn in quiet and well-lit surroundings, thus contributing to their educational success. 

Another major challenge in Syria’s educational sector is the severe lack of fuel which directly affects students’ capabilities to access educational institutions. The Covid-19 pandemic, in addition, forced schools and universities to shut down for months, leading to the dropping out of a vast number of students. 

As mentioned above, UNICEF is taking several steps to improve these circumstances and combat the so-called ‘lost generation’. According to recently published data, UNICEF has not only been active in Syria throughout the past ten years but has also helped over 1.5 million children since 2016 by providing them with study materials and better chances for education. Furthermore, UNESCO has played an active role in Syria by launching several platforms to support Syrian children, psychologically as well as educationally. An example of this can be seen in the creation of “The Second Chance Program” by CapED, which assists the students who failed their final exams in retaking these during the summer, thereby providing them with a second opportunity to move onto the next grade. 

Overall, the situation in Syria is chaotic and complex, and governmental administrations fail to prioritise education. According to a report published by The Middle East Institute in 2022, the limited and short-term nature of the funding, insufficiency and inefficiency of data collection, and the delays in the embracement of new approaches are significant factors hampering Syria’s educational success. Education in Syria is in dire need of funding and rebuilding to improve students’ situations and guarantee their basic human rights. 

Cover image -Photo by Omar Ram on Unsplash

Written by Noor Mousa 

Edited by Olga Ruiz Pilato