The Founder and Executive Director of ACCORD, Dr Vasu Gounden, was invited by the South African Human Rights Commission to be one of five panelists on a National Investigative Hearing into the impact of protest-related actions on the right to a basic education in South Africa.
The Commission is concerned with protest-related school closures that are undermining the right to access a basic education. Most of the protests are not related to the right of education but do end up undermining the right to a basic education. The Commission is mindful of the need to protect the right of all people to protest as guaranteed by the Constitution. The Commission therefore decided to hold a national hearing from 13-15 June 2016, to interrogate the issue of how South Africa can ensure that protest-related closures of schools do not undermine the right to access a basic education.
The convening of a national hearing was intended, jointly with relevant stakeholders, to assess, evaluate and strengthen responses for the respect and protection of the right of children to a basic education. The objectives were to:
- Assess the compliance of relevant State authorities with their domestic, regional and international obligations;
- Assess the responsiveness of relevant State authorities, individually and in cooperation with another, in light of these obligations;
- Explore the impact of protest-related action(s) on the right to a basic education;
- Identify any shortfalls or gaps in law or practice that further impact on the right to a basic education in the context of protests;
- Raise awareness in civil society about protest-related action(s) and its impact on the right to a basic education;
- Share recommended practices through lessons-learned and achievements made;
- Identify measures taken to mitigate any adverse impacts; and
- Make findings and recommendations to strengthen the respect and protection of the right to a basic education.
In addition to Dr Gounden the other panelists consisted of:
- Commissioner Lindiwe Mokate – South African Human Rights Commission (who was also the Chair of the Panel);
- Commissioner Danfred Titus – South African Human rights Commission
- Professor Ann Skelton – Director, Centre for Child Law
- Dr Chris Madiba – Independent expert in Education
The Commission invited a wide range of institutions to make input at the hearing. This included State institutions (from national and provincial levels), trade unions and civil society.