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Qatar’s “visionary” approach should lead to free education

GENEVA / DOHA (16 December 2019) – Qatar should be congratulated on its visionary and open approach to education, and the resources it is investing in it, but must steer away from fee-paying models, a human rights expert has found after visiting the country.

“I am particularly impressed that the right to education as a human right is recognised throughout society, from the State to schools,” said Koumba Boly Barry, Special Rapporteur on the right to education, presenting her preliminary observations to the Government.

“Qatar and its many foundations are also working to boost access to education in many other countries, especially for vulnerable groups, which is also commendable.

"However, it should be stressed that people have the right to free, inclusive and quality education. I am concerned at the high fees that non-Qataris are sometimes having to pay, which means some children are currently not attending school. These fees should be lifted so that all children can enjoy their right to education.”

The expert urged the Government to continue collecting data on the number of children not attending school, and called for action to make families more aware of the importance of education, to provide them with literacy programmes, and to remove the administrative barriers that prevent children without identity cards from accessing school.

"The inclusive dimension of education in Qatar must be strengthened, not only for children with disabilities, but also by facilitating access to free public education for all children residing in Qatar," said Boly Barry. “The values highlighted in Vision 2030, including the promotion of social cohesion and analytical, critical, creative and innovative thinking, should serve as a guide to achieve this objective.”

The Special Rapporteur highlighted the large number of private schools operating in Qatar, and recommended that the Abidjan Principles – which guide States in their collaboration with the private sector – should be taken into consideration.

Boly Barry also welcomed the progress made in accepting international human rights standards, including the ratification in 2018 of the two International Covenants, and the dialogue with human rights mechanisms. "I urge the government to implement the recommendations made by these mechanisms in a strategic manner," she added.

She visited Qatar from 8 to 16 December at the invitation of the government and will present a full report to the Human Rights Council in June 2020.

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