“The child awakens to a universe. The mind of the child to a world of meaning. Imagination to a world of beauty. Emotions to a world of intimacy. It takes a universe to make a child both in outer form and inner spirit. It takes a universe to educate a child. A universe to fulfil a child.”- Thomas Berry

For the first post of the series, please refer to: https://ideasandevents.wordpress.com/2014/07/10/orphans-of-justice/

The Legal Rights of Children: Convention on the Rights of the Child

2.1 The Right to Development

The Committee on the Rights of the Child has noted that the right to development under the CRC was to be defined in a similar way as human development is defined in Article 1 of the UN Declaration on the Right to Development 1986. This right to development entails a comprehensive process of realising children’s rights to allow them to “grow up in a healthy and protected manner, free from fear and want, and to develop their personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential consistent with their evolving capacities.” The Committee also found that the term “development” should be “interpreted in a broad sense, adding a qualitative dimension: not only physical health is intended, but also mental, emotional, cognitive, social and cultural development”.

In examining the right to life, survival and development, the right to education is of pivotal importance.  However, little attention has been devoted to the education of detainees and their families as reflected in the limited resources made available – often on account of a lack of public interest and deep-rooted bias against offenders, leading to a lack of political will. It must be emphasised that the punishment element of a prison sentence lies solely in the deprivation of liberty. Protecting other rights, including to life, food, education and freedom from torture must remain paramount. 

In the case of children whose parents are imprisoned, the possible risks to the right to education provided for by Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Articles 28 & 29 of the CRC merit consideration.  Given the inherent interdependence of rights, any violation of the right to education also infringes upon other rights, including the right to development.

Furthermore, parents play an integral role in a child’s development. This view is consistent with Article 18(1),”State Parties shall use their best efforts to ensure recognition of the principle that both parents have common responsibilities for the upbringing and development of the child”, which provides that parents have the primary responsibility for the upbringing and development of their children. The relationship of the child with her or his parent is essential to develop the child’s sense of security and place in society. Therefore, forcibly separating the child from her or his parents may negatively impact the child’s social development.

In view this, the Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Vernor Muñoz, dedicated his 2009 report to the Human Rights Council to the provision of education for detainees.  The report emphasises the inherent link between education and its positive impact on recidivism while pointing out that it is also an imperative in its own right, and highlights some domestic provisions for the education of children living in prisons.  In particular, the report notes that many countries do not implement legal requirements to provide education for children living in prisons.