U.Va. Law School to Host Human Rights and Education Symposium Oct. 15

October 12, 2010 — Human rights and education lawyers and advocates will share their research, work and personal experiences on education rights and local education advocacy at a symposium to be held Friday, in room 102 of Withers-Brown Hall at the University of Virginia School of Law.

The symposium, "Human Rights in Education: Comparative Perspectives of Local and International Advocacy," is an extension of an interdisciplinary seminar co-taught by professor Deena Hurwitz of the Law School and professor Carol Anne Spreen of the Curry School of Education.

"The right to education is generally understood as meaning free and compulsory primary education for all children. But what that means in reality is not so obvious," Hurwitz said. "Our objective with this symposium and our seminar is to foster a discussion with and about our local communities, and about countries where poverty and the lack of resources are raised as excuses for the low levels of education.

"We are looking into a human rights-based approach to education – that is, ways to measure the government's progress toward fulfilling their obligations in specific terms. The right to education can be measured, for example, by considering the suitability of school infrastructures, learning material, teaching methodology, children's sociocultural characteristics (e.g., language spoken in the home), learning outcomes," Hurwitz said.

Symposium participants will discuss cases around the right to education, including indigenous rights in education (Suriname and Guatemala), multiculturalism, constitutionalism and human rights (Colombia and Guatemala), the rights of disabled and or marginalized youth (India), education in emergencies (Afghanistan and Pakistan) and the rights of refugees/forced migrants (South Africa).

There's also a local component to the symposium that will discuss "Refugee & Immigrant Children in Charlottesville/Albemarle Schools: Toward a Culturally Relevant Pedagogy." See the schedule below for details.

"The right to education is seen globally as a fundamental human right and a gateway to other rights," Spreen said. "Yet for many of the most vulnerable children, translating these rights from abstract principles into reality is a challenge. This symposium will bring together a number of human rights advocates and researchers from Guatemala, Suriname, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and South Africa who are involved in promoting 'rights to, in and through' education. We have also invited a number of U.S.-based educators, human rights lawyers and other rights to share insights and encourage conversations and synergies around rights-based approaches in education."

Said Salim Vally, director of the Education Rights Project in South Africa, "More than a decade after the end of apartheid in South Africa, we still observe people being discriminated against on the basis of social class, illness, gender, race, disability, national origin (in the case of refugees and migrants), language and sexual orientation. The responsibility of our new society and of education specifically is to correct the discrimination of the past and its perpetuation today. Yet, while many rights exist on paper, for poor communities they are the result of difficult struggles over many generations. It is up to citizens (through education) to extend and strengthen rights and freedoms and hold the state accountable when they fail to uphold and deliver on promises."

The symposium will also involve community-based organizations from the Charlottesville-Albemarle area, such as JustChildren/Legal Aid Justice Center, the International Rescue Committee, Piedmont Court-Appointed Special Advocates for Children and local public school professionals.

For information on the symposium, visit here.

Conference Schedule

(Note: All sessions will be in room 102 of Withers-Brown Hall. Lunch and reception will be in the Purcell Reading Room. Registration and breakfast will be in Student Lounge No. 1.   Reservations are required for the luncheon.)

• 8:30-9 a.m. Continental breakfast/registration, Student Lounge No. 1.

• 9-9:45 a.m. Welcome and keynote: Understanding Rights To, In and Through Education
Professors Deena Hurwitz and Carol Anne Spreen, symposium coordinators
Dean Paul Mahoney, U.Va. School of Law
Dean Robert Pianta, U.Va. Curry School of Education
Keynote: Peter Hyll-Larsen, Right to Education Project, U.K.

• 9:45-11 a.m. Panel I: The State and National Education Plans / Policies
Nisha Thapliyal, Colgate University: Right to Education Legislation in India
Daniel Bonilla, Universidad de Los Andes, Bogota Colombia: Broader Legal Frameworks (education policy, ESCR, multiculturalism), Colombia and Constitutional
José Roberto Morales, Comité para la Acciόn por Derechos Humanos, CALDH, Guatemala: Multiculturalism, Interculturalism and Pluriculturalism in Approach to Education
Moderator/Discussant: Professor James Ryan

• 11-11:15 a.m. Coffee and tea break  

• 11:15 a.m.‐12:45 p.m. Panel II: Rights in Education for Marginalized and Vulnerable Groups
Salim Vally, University of Johannesburg, South Africa: Refugees in Southern Africa
Ellen-Rose Kambel, Association of Indigenous Village Leaders, VIDS, Suriname: Indigenous and Afro-descendant Communities in Suriname
Dana Burde, New York University, Afghanistan: Education in Emergency and Post Conflict Situations
Jehanzaib Khan, New York University, Save the Children/ Pakistan: Parents Education Decisions, Education in Crisis Contexts
Nina Rabin, University of Arizona Southwest Institute for Research on Women, Border Project Director
Moderator/Discussant: Professor Deena Hurwitz

• 12:45-2:15 p.m. Luncheon and speaker, Purcell Reading Room
Tomiko Brown-Nagin, U.Va. School of Law: "Some Realism About Legalism in Education Reform: Lessons from History"

• 2:15-3:15 p.m. Panel III: What a Rights-Based School Looks Like
Guillermo Chen, Co-founder and director, Escuela Nueva Esperanza, Rabinal, Guatemala
Brad Aaron, Machik Foundation, operations director, program associate, U.Va. Tibetan Sustainable Governance Program: Chunbga Primary and Middle Schools, Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture
Moderator/Discussant: Peter Hyll-Larsen, Right to Education Project, U.K.

3:15-4:15 p.m. Panel IV: Refugee & Immigrant Children in Charlottesville/Albemarle Schools: Toward a Culturally Relevant Pedagogy
Courtney Stewart, International & English for Speakers of Other Languages Student Support program coordinator, Albemarle County Schools
Tina Vasquez, English as a Second Language instructor, Charlottesville City Schools
Laura Brown, English for Speakers of Other Languages student support, Migrant Education, Albemarle County Schools
Elaine Cecelski, English for Speakers of Other Languages student support, Albemarle County Schools
Sharon Webb, English for Speakers of Other Languages student support instructor, Albemarle High School
Moderator/Discussant: Carol Anne Spreen

• 4-4:15 p.m. Coffee /tea break

• 4:15-5:30 p.m. Panel V: Advocating For and Ensuring Rights Locally
Mirna Dickey, International Rescue Committee, Charlottesville
Angela Ciolfi, director, JustChildren
Martha Trujillo, Cresciendo Juntos
Peter Loach, Piedmont Housing Alliance
Moderator/Discussant: Professor Doug Ford

• 5:30-7 p.m. Closing Remarks and Reception, Purcell Reading Room