Advancing human rights while fighting Corona virus

My blog article on advancing human rights in the fight against Corona virus is up on our International Law Training and Research Hub, the University of Tokyo. The whole article is available here.


Below is in relation to education:

… One more pertinent issue I would like to raise, as an academic at the University of Tokyo, is the confluence of the right to education with changes in classes due to Covid-19. The closing of schools and educational institutions, along with the switch to online classes, is necessary for public health and is legitimate under Human Rights Law (HRL), as certain rights can be suspended temporarily. HRL stipulates that special measures should remain proportionate to the aim sought, in addition to keeping in mind that the effect of a single measure is invariably experienced differently among various groups.

And while questions of economic status, computer availability, and internet access at home have been repeatedly discussed, there are many other questions worth asking: do students have family obligations at home? Are they allowed to study at home, and is there an enabling environment? Are there issues that they cannot discuss openly at home? Are there time periods when certain groups cannot study?

Moreover, the viability of new forms of learning must be examined. Can students learn as effectively through online or other means? Were they given sufficient instruction and time to get accustomed? Can we expect the same type and level of computer literacy for students? How is the strength of interactive classes and seminars substituted? Are students given sufficient opportunity to learn from their peers while they are off campus?

Again, institutions must account for their policies’ lopsided effects on certain groups. Do different genders or age groups have different difficulties? Do foreign students have access to sufficient and accurate information in the language they understand? Can hearing or visually impaired students make the most of what is provided? Is the institution making sufficient considerations for infected students? What about those who are subject to travel restrictions or in different time zones?

It is definitely not easy to cater to all needs, but that is not a valid reason to hastily brush these questions under the carpet. The key to effective policy involves flexibility – adjustments in consultation and discussion with students need to be on the table.