Overview of International and Regional Legal Instruments on Education

The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (1981) is intended to promote and protect human rights and basic freedoms on the African continent. It contains a brief right to education provision (Article 17), together with an overarching prohibition on discrimination (Article 2). Article 25 provides for human rights education.
• Adoption: 27 June 1981
• Entry into force: 21 October 1986
• Ratifications: 54 
• Interpretation: there is no general interpretation on the right to education, but the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has interpreted Article 17 through its case-law, particularly in Free Legal Assistance Group and others v. Republic Democratic of Congo 
• Monitoring mechanism: yes 
• Complaint mechanism: yes, through the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights or the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, if the state has ratified the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Establishment of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (1998) 

The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (1990)  sets out a much broader and more comprehensive right to education than that provided for in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (1981)  . Article 11 states that every child shall have the right to an education and prescribes measures that states must undertake as part of their efforts to achieve the full realisation of this right, including regarding school discipline and pregnant girls. It defines the aims of education and recognises the right of parents to choose the kind of education they want for their children in conformity with their religious and moral convictions.

Complaint mechanismyes 

The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (2003)  aims to eliminate discrimination against women and to ensure the protection of the rights of women as stipulated in international declarations and conventions. Article 12 provides for their right to education and training on the basis of the principles of non-discrimination and equal opportunity. It calls for the elimination of all stereotypes and the integration of gender sensitisation at all levels of education curricula. It refers to their protection against sexual harassment. It also recognises the need for specific positive action including promotion of literacy amongst women.

  • Adoption: 11 July 2003
  • Entry into force: 25 November 2005
  • Ratifications42 (Interpretation: the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights is competent to interpret the Protocol and may provide interpretation of Article 12 in the future.
  • Monitoring mechanismyes(Article 28 of the Protocol) 

Complaint mechanism: yes through the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights   or  the African Court on Human and Peoples’ rights,  if the state has ratified the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ rights on the Establishment of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ rights (1998)

The African Youth Charter (2006)  is the first legal framework in Africa to support national policies, programmes and action in favour of youth development. It refers to the rights, freedoms and duties of young people in Africa, including the right to education. Article 13 recognises the right of every young person to education of good quality. It refers to multiple forms of education including non-formal and informal. It defines the aims of education and establishes states’ obligations. It also provides for gender equality and the use of African languages in teaching (Article 20).


  • Adoption: 2 July 2006
  • Entry into force: 8 August 2009
  • Ratifications38 
  • Interpretation: no
  • Monitoring mechanism: no
  • Complaint mechanism: no

AU Watch Mobile Library Project for African Schools

Our mobile library project is a collaborative exercise established in 2019 by business executives across Africa to help improve the quality of primary education.

The Mobile Library and Outdoor Readers Hub, is a unique strategy to address the lack of school or other local libraries for children (both in-school and out-of-school) living in poor communities and districts in many places in Africa. It is designed to operate during the weekend, on Saturdays.

Every Saturday a specially equipped van will convey a small library of storybooks and early literacy materials into one disadvantaged community (which lacks a local library), in order for interested children and teenagers in such areas to have book reading access. As part of the mobile library, the van will also convey a small collection of foldable chairs, floor mats and foldable gazebos which, upon arrival in the host community, will be assembled into an outdoor reader’s hub, where an average of 100 children and teenagers can gather to read exciting books and participate in other hub activities such as special book readings, quizzes, poetry recitals etc.

The mobile library is designed to operate a 5-hour reading session and another 3-hour general session for other constructive non-reading activities. In addition, it will operate a book lending club in each community visited, which will allow avid and interested early readers to borrow books and return to an appointed Community book club Rep upon completion.

For more information, please click here.