When we think of human rights, we never think of education, says Chris Mburu, Kenyan human rights activist.
Two-thirds of the population around the world, the biggest challenge is education, Mburu said Thursday in a speech to 70 people in the Cape Florida Ballroom at the Student Union.
“There is a high focus on economic, social and cultural rights, yet the most fundamental right is the right to education, without education we disempowered that person from the civil rights we speak so much of,” Mburu said.
Kenya is affected by the lack of funding and access to education, which prompted Mburu to start the Hilde Back Education Fund that offers scholarships to Kenyan students.
His speech “The Right to Education: A Solution to Global Problems” was sponsored by the UCF Global Perspective office.
Mburu has been doing human rights work for the last 20 years, first as an activist in his home country Kenya, then while earning his LLM at Harvard Law School, and finally by working with organizations such as Amnesty International, Global Rights and the United Nations. Mburu is currently heading the anti-discrimination section of the UN Human Rights Agency, based in Geneva, Switzerland. His work involves conducting research on discrimination and intolerance that could result in the commission of serious crimes.
“Ignorance is used as a political tool, people who are not educated can be easily manipulated,” Mburu said. He continues, “With better education, we wouldn’t have dictators”.
Kenya has been affected by civil war and genocide, often at the persuasion for a pack of cigarettes, or simply telling one group of people that the other group is bad. On average, it only costs $20,000 to cause a civil war.
“It is an outrage to see the hunger these kids have for education,” Mburu said. He goes on to quote singer Bono, of the band U2, “where you live, should not determine whether you live.”
Mburu is the founder of the Hilde Back Education Fund, a non-profit organization that started in 2001, which provides scholarships, material, medical, leadership training and psychosocial support to children in Kenya at the Secondary Level. The Fund is named in honor to Swedish benefactors who ran a charitable education initiative from 1969 through the 70s, specifically Hilde Back who sponsored Chris Mburu’s education in the 1970s under the Swedish Sponsorship Programme.
Mburu says that education is the foundation of development around the world, and credits the draught that occurs in Ethiopia every five to 10 years to the lack of education. He says, “it is a crisis of governance, distribution and corruption.”
“The moment we educate people, then we create an equal playing filed in which the rest of the rights can be enjoyed,” Mburu said.
He concludes by reminding the audience of John F. Kennedys words, “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for you country,” and to remember when we point the finger at someone else, there are always three pointing right back.
“The fact that education equals peace, I can’t say I thought of that myself, but I have always felt that if you have a community that’s aware, you can do better if you know better, I liked that he layed that all out,” Kaylin Lynch, 20, sophmore in education major.