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Qatar’s “visionary” approach should lead to free education for all, UN rights expert says

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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.


Ms Koumba Boly Barry took office as Special Rapporteur on the right to education on 1 August 2016 following her appointment at the 32nd session of the Human Rights Council. She holds a PhD in Economic History from Cheikh Anta Diop University in Senegal. She is the former Minister of Education and Literacy of Burkina Faso and has consulted widely for various governments and international institutions on the right to education. Dr. Boly Barry has been an advocate on gender issues in education. She also has ample knowledge and experience in training and research, as a visiting professor at University of Nottingham, United Kingdom, University of Louvain La Neuve Belgium, and as a lecturer at Ouagadougou University ,Burkina Faso ,Vitoria University, Brazil and Fribourg University, Switzerland.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights country page: Qatar  

For more information and media inquiries, please contact:
In Qatar (during the visit): Ms Mylène Bidault (+41 79 500 0032 / mbidault@ohchr.org)
In Geneva: Ms Teizu Guluma (+41 079 764 7374 /

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact:
Mr. Jeremy Laurence, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / jlaurence@ohchr.org)

Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts.

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