An Assessment Of Human Rights And Education Education Essay

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

Human rights are entitlements which every individual is entitled to, by the virtue of belonging to the human race. Every citizen of any society has to be educated for him/her to function effectively in that particular society. It's not a privilege for people to have this education rather it's their entitlement to be educated. This is not reality with the case for rural areas whereby they are neglected of better education rather provided with poor education. Education cannot be affective without awareness of human rights at the same time considering the culture of the people.

One of the setbacks of education in the rural areas of Malawi is cultural practices which are deep rooted in the people lives. Most of these cultural practices are violations of human rights. Many people in the rural areas have been deprived of their rights because of ignorance. This is contributing to high levels of illiteracy in the rural areas of Malawi. This is contributing to slow pace of development since illiterate people have limited knowledge and are unable to cope up with the modern fast world. In this research the researcher looked how good cultural practices can be promoted, more especially those which are not violating people's right to be educated. The research also looked how education is affected when there is ignorance about human rights.


Formal education in Malawi was introduced by the missionaries. Since then there have been constant conflict between Western Civilization and Malawian cultural values. Urban centers have been able to cope up with Western Education since many people living in these areas are accommodating and are flexible to foreign ideas. Some of cultural practices that are practiced are a threat to people's freedom. Many children have been not able to attain formal education because of some cultural practices; some of them have dropped out from school. The challenge remains in the rural areas whereby the levels of illiteracy are high. This has been always a problem to bring harmony between formal education and cultural practices. There has been lack of appreciation in many rural areas regarding education hence they don't see any purpose of sending children to school. Many children are innocently suffering from what their societies are doing to them. Despite that parents from remote areas are not interested in education; the government has also contributed to the poor conditions of education in rural areas. Most schools in rural areas lack qualified teachers and the facilities are not in good condition. The rural areas in most cases are not prioritized in terms of resources that facilitate education.

The high illiteracy levels have contributed to lack of understanding about human rights. Some of the cultural practices that are practiced in the rural areas are violation of human rights. Many victims have been women and children. Due to ignorance they have regarded it normal to live under those circumstances. Almost each and every week there is news across the country about human rights violations happening in the country side.

When Malawi was turning into a multi-party state we have witnessed many non-governmental organizations coming in to address different social issues. They have worked tirelessly to address issues of human rights and criticizing those cultural practices that deprive people their rights. On the other hand the government has spent millions of kwachas to improve the education standard for the people living in rural areas. Some of the things the government did were to improve living standard of teachers living in rural areas by providing hardship allowances. It has introduced programs that are aimed at improving girl child education. It has also provided good housing for teachers living in rural areas and it has collaborated with other non-government organizations in introducing feeding programs in primary schools to alleviate hunger among students. Some of the non-government organization is working tirelessly with the government to improve the lives of people in rural areas, so that they can be able to send their children to school.

Description of the Study Area

Kudoko village is found in Lilongwe district and it's in rural zone of the capital city. It is located in north east of Lilongwe near Area 25. The area is highly populated and the main occupation of the people is subsistence farming. The people of Kudoko belong to chewa tribe and they practice chewa cultural practices e.g. gule wamkulu. It only has the junior primary school and the other schools which are full primary schools are very far from the area. There is no any secondary school nearby and those who want to pursue the education up to secondary school they travel long distances to find a school. Many girls enter into early marriages because they have nothing to do when they complete their junior primary level since other schools are very far from the area. Due to illiteracy of the people and their cultural practices there is little which is done to human rights violations against women and children. In the year 2011 June the Flood Church in California send a short-term missionary team which sensitized people on issues regarding human rights. Although this happen there is a need to dig more about this area so that some of the problems facing the people can be detected. Therefore this research tries to bring awareness to the outside world so that something regarding education has to be done. This study is to address issues of human rights violations and abolishment of cultural practices that are retarding development.

Problem Statement

Lilongwe being the capital city of Malawi has most of the best schools. Most of the primary schools are complete. But this is mostly happening in Lilongwe urban which also consists of many educated elite. The educated elite had tried to get rid of traditional constraints which hinder development and are well aware of their human rights. But the problem still remains in the rural areas where by there are not enough schools to serve the people as a result the illiteracy levels are high. Many teachers are not willing to teach in rural areas which are also affecting education as the report of the World Bank, Country Status Report (2004) states that "the quality of education system is generally associated with the supply of teachers in the schools, particularly qualified teachers" (p.57). As the case with rural areas it's difficult for the people to break from their cultural practices which violate human rights because most of them are not educated. The problem is that there is little which is done to solve these issues. Although the central government has tried to alleviate the problem, still the challenge remain the same in rural areas where standards of education are in poor condition.

Through observation many parents are not concerned with the welfare of their children. Since they didn't go far with education they don't see any reason of encouraging their children. As the deputy secretary of education of Livingstonia Synod Mrs. Miriam Chingati Gausi stated that many of the rural areas lack good infrastructure like classrooms, toilets and teachers houses at the same time there is lack of role models who can inspire children in the villages to excel in their education.

Aims and Objectives

By the end of this research all the stake holders in education sector will have a collective effort to address issues concerning violations of human rights happening in the rural areas of Malawi.

By the end of this research all the traditional leaders and chiefs will work hand in hand with the government and NGOs in sensitizing the rural masses to get rid of cultural practices that are negatively affecting formal education.

Significance of the Study

This research in the first place will help the researcher to understand the topic comprehensively. This research will unveil some of the issues which are still their despite effort by other researchers who conducted research in rural areas. It will help specifically people of Kudoko village if the issues at hand will be known to the outside world. It will also call for collective action from all stakeholders in education to do something about the problem at hand. It will also be considered as a reference paper by further studies in this field.


There are many factors that have made people in rural areas to be less educated and stick to their cultural practices and to be less concern on human rights. For the case of Kudoko village it's assumed that, many people in the rural areas are illiterate because they don't go to school due to cultural practices that violate human rights and lack of good infrastructure to facilitate learning.



Literature review will provide the theoretical framework of the research. This theoretical framework will be considered to the pillars in which all the information will be rotating on and data will be analyzed within the perimeters of the theoretical framework. In this case the researcher will discuss the topic in three dimensions as follows; the meaning of human rights and their implications; definition of culture and its consequences on human rights and the meaning of education how it has been denied as the rights to every individual.

Human Rights Defined

This chapter will discuss issues concerning human rights in relation to education and how they are directly affected by cultural practices. Many scholars have come up with the definition of human rights but according to the World Book Encyclopedia (2001), Human rights are entitlements which every individual is entitled to, by the virtue of belonging to the human race. This means that by the virtue of being a person you possess these rights whether someone may like it or not. As the statements describes "The state must guarantee that education contributes to the full development of the human personality and sense of dignity, the strengthening of human rights, and the protection of the environment, It must ensure that education enables a person to participate effectively in a free society, and promote understanding, tolerance and friendship ." (Www. UN...UNICEF, December 2001). It is not based on the area you are living in whether in rural area or urban setting. In most cases people living in rural areas are less concerned about issues to do with human rights. For people in rural areas to fully participate in national development they will need to be aware of their responsibilities and human rights. Although some researchers have argued that people in the rural areas they have their own way of looking at success.

"Researchers have facilitated exercises by rural people who are clear on what quality life entails in their local contexts. People in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa… the extent to which material and nonmaterial needs are fulfilled are widely accepted as a satisfactory measure of people's well-being scientific measurement however has been problematic." (G.Kamchedzera & U.Banda, 2001p.10)

Others have continued to say that many parents in rural areas treat children as a property not an individual. They start bearing children at younger age and fail to provide for them, which later becomes a burden to them. Due to the pressure of raising children they end up forcing girl into early marrieges as Bigombe & Khadiagala (2008) wrote that,

"One of the changing views of the value of children is that young men and women are getting married or raising families without being officially at increasingly younger ages. Parents see early marriages as a way of more immediately realizing the economic values of a daughter's dowry. Parents who are struggling to raise many children may choose to have their adolescent daughters married earlier than they would have in different circumstances. (p.67)

Although Ignasio Malizani Jimu (2008) has argued that On the surface the maxim is that rural communities should be active agents in meeting developmental needs rather than waiting for the central government and other outside agents to provide what might be lacking (p.2). Not only the people living in rural areas are to blame on the poor condition of education, the government is also the one to be blamed. It's somehow disappointing when the government is not developing people from rural areas while getting tax from them it's a violation to human rights. Once every citizen of Malawi is paying tax he/she is entitled to have good roads, hospitals, bridges and many other facilities that will facilitate education. As the Quality Imperative Published by UNESCO (2004) states that,

"Although the right to education has been reaffirmed on many occasions since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was proclaimed in 1948, many international instruments are silent about the qualitative dimension of learning. Most recently, the United Nations Millennium Declaration, adopted in 2000, states that all children will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling by 2015 but makes no specific to its quality." (p.56)

The statement above is best describing the situation in most rural areas in Malawi who are still lagging behind in terms of quality education. There is minimal hope for the people living in remote areas to develop since their right to education is hindered. It's difficult to unlock poverty without putting education as the key to development. For the people to be civilized and live as responsible citizens who will have respect for human rights they will need to be educated.

Malawi made some tremendous improvements when it introduced Free Primary Education in 1994 which gave access to many Malawian students to enroll in school. This was achieved with collaboration with other International organizations which were working hand in hand with the government.

"When the newly democratically elected government of Malawi declared Free Primary Education (FPE) in 1994, UNICEF was one of the first organisations to come forward to assist the government with teaching/learning materials. UNICEF has also assisted government to implement; among other things; two projects- "keeping kids in school" and "closing the gender gap". The major objective of these community-based school projects was to improve the quality of primary education and ensure access to educational facilities within walking distance, especially for girls in close collaboration with communities". (Www. UN….Unicef, December, 2001)

The problem is that the organizations are biased in dealing with the problems affecting education in rural areas which neglect other parties within the communities. Most of the times, the non-governmental organizations are dealing with issues concerning girl child other than the community as a whole. This is making it difficult to have a collective action to address the problems. Another hindrance of education in rural areas is the distance covered by the pupils when going to school. "The most obvious reason that may undermine enrolment and increase school dropout rate is the actual availability of schools themselves. Secondly the proximity of the schools to primary school-age children is also vital." (Www. UN…..UNICEF, December 2000)

Culture Defined

Paul G. Hiebert in his book of Cultural Anthropology (1983) defined Culture as a way of thinking and behaving; it is group's knowledge and customs, its memories, written records, and objects for present and future use. In other ways culture maybe referred to peoples way of life or their life style, how do they respond to nature, what do they do for sustainability and how do they do to develop themselves. (p.64) John M.K. Mtitima in his book of Powers of Culture; Dilemma of the Black Race (2009) stated that culture is the purpose of life the more it develops, the more meaningful education becomes. So without culture, education is worthless no matter how superior the borrowed culture may be (p.57). Education forms an integral part of the whole process of passing the culture from generation to generation as Hiebert wrote that the school serves as perhaps the major institution devised by the adult generation for maintaining and perpetuating the culture (p.35). Although culture is a good thing for everyone but they are some cultures which need to be restructured. Although the coming in of Non-Governmental Organization has helped remarkably to address cultural practices that are hindering education most of rural areas still lag behind on issues of human rights. They think that the idea about human rights it's a foreign culture which want to dilute our culture here in Malawi hence cultural practices has been a hindrance to education and human rights awareness. As G. Square & C. Mwayiyatsa (2011) states that

"Examples of such cultural practices that violate human rights are; "Kuchosa fumbi ''where by girls are forced to sleep with elder men upon becoming of age. Jando is another cultural practice that violates ones right to education as a girl child (Jando for a boy child) is kept months away from school, friends and family by elder women who prepare and give these young girls' and boys' advice for marriage before their time." (Retrieved from

Some cultural practices have not only hindered young people to education but they have caused more damage even in their moral life. G. Square, E. Yohane & C. M wayiyatsa 2011 have stated that cultural practices do not only violate human rights but also bring a lot of serious consequences. One of them being that these practices promote the spread of HIV/AIDS as these young girls are forced to have sex with elder men whose status is unknown. When these young girls go into the community they have the wrong mentality of what life as a teenager or a matured person is all about. As a result these young girls and boys go out into the society/community having unprotected sex and living a care free life. (p.3)

Education Defined

Education is the process of acquiring skills, knowledge and attitudes. Since the creation of man education has been an integral part of civilization. Any country prioritizes education so that development is achieved. For the case of Malawi we have witnessed the introduction of free primary education which has increased the enrollment in Malawian schools. Malawi nation for it to achieve development for its people it has to put education as the foundation. As the statement by the European Commission (2001) states that, "Education has the fundamental role to play in a society's development and its fight against poverty. It is a precondition for progress in other essential fields of human development such as health and social welfare." (p. 45)

Malawi has its structure of formal education which was copied from the British government as the UNICEF (2000) report describes it that; the formal structure of education system in Malawi follows an 8-4-4 pattern of education comprising three levels. The primary level, which is an eight-year cycle, runs from standard one through to standard eight. This level is divided into three sections; infant section which comprises standards 1 and 2; junior section comprising standards three, four and five and senior section comprising standards six, seven and eight. Primary education has been free since the democratic change of 1994. The secondary level education lasts 4 four years and consists of two cycles- junior (forms one and two) and senior (forms three and four) with a national examination at the end of each cycle. (Www. UN…

Malawi is still struggling to make education a dream come true for many of its citizens because up to now there is very slights improvements in terms of progress in rural areas. Despite the rise in enrollment but still more there is little which is done to ease the problem of student-teacher ratio. As the assessment of the world education forum gives the statement on how the enrollment has risen but without adequate personnel,

"The assessment has established that at the level of all teachers inclusive, pupil-teacher ratio has improved by 4.7 per cent. It stood at 64:1 in 1990, rose to 68:1 in 1994 and lowered down to 61.1 in 1997. Pupil Qualified Teacher Ratio has improved by 7.5 per cent moving from 80:1 in 1990 to 74:1 in 1997. However, it became worse in 1995 when it rose to 108:1. This is explained by the influx of pupils into the system following the inauguration of the FPE policy. Thus at both unqualified teacher and qualified teacher levels Malawi Government has not yet achieved its officially established target for pupil-teacher ratio." ( retreaved from www. UN…

This is almost the same with what Mrs. Miriam Chingati Gausi who is the deputy education secretary of the livingstonia said. She stated that there is lack of facilities in rural area that affect education in all its aspects. The health services are limited which make children not to have access to medication which at the end brings stunted growth physically and mentally which negatively affects the education of the children. (Personal Communication, January 28, 2013)

In Malawi Education is influenced by many factors which are complex. But some the things which has been revealed are best described by the country report facilitated by UNICEF which states that "Schooling is influenced by several factors within the environment in which it takes place. It interacts with the needs of all systems from the macro-level to the school level. The input-throughput-output mechanisms in our schools all take place in this milieu." (Www. UN…UNICEF, December 2001)

Some researchers have argued that education in rural areas is mostly affected by poverty and long distances covered by the students.

"Students in Malawi studied in difficult conditions. It was evident that work and household responsibilities competed with study time. In order to graduate from primary school, students had to complete eight grade levels. Less than half of all primary students reached the fifth level of primary school. As in many developing and low-income countries where resources were scarce, girls were at a greater educational disadvantage." (L. Sankhulani, 2007, p.1)

The above statement is supporting the argument that many of the victims of challenges affecting education in rural areas have been girls and women. Sankhulani 2007 has continued to state other problems affecting education. Among the problems that impeded students' academic progress in general, in Malawi's schools were poverty, poor learning facilities, untrained teachers, discontented teachers, poor infrastructure, inadequate and sometimes unavailability of social services, and negative cultural beliefs and practices.(p.3)

This problem has been there since Malawi came into a nation. Different political parties have governed this country and the problems still rocks. Many policies have been tried to be implemented to address the problems but to no avail.

Another troubling issue in rural areas is the welfare of teachers. There is lack of motivation for teachers to make a different in their pupils at the same time there low economic status demotivates there learners to work hard in school. Usually teachers are underpaid and for those teacher living in rural areas get there salary very late because their school are inaccessible. L. Sankhulani (2007) find out that, most rural teachers complained that their houses and classrooms were not in good condition. Since teachers were expected to reside close to the schools, they expected to find a good house, which could be rented at minimal cost within the school vicinity. In some instances, teachers had been posted to schools where there were inadequate houses or none at all. In such situations, teachers were expected to find a house outside the school compound. (p.6)

The quality of classrooms and any other infrastructure is also in bad state in rural areas. L.Sankhulani (2007) has described In addition to lack of infrastructure was lack of furniture for the schools. As I visited the schools I noticed that some had good classrooms, while others had inadequate classrooms. When I asked how they managed, one teacher stated, "we conduct classes outside, under trees since we have big trees in the school surrounding." Teachers further explained that when it rained, they combined classes in the available space or if it was too congested they sent children home. Also worth noting was that apart from classrooms being inadequate and in some cases dilapidated, some had no desks. The interviewees indicated that they were waiting for the government to provide them. In situations where pupils sat on the floors, teachers were concerned that some of them might drop out because they could not manage to keep their clothes clean. It was also hard for students to sit on a hard floor for the whole day and do their schoolwork. (p.10)