BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Human rights and freedoms education has been viewed as a global concern. The United States’ (UN) treasured agenda has always been that all nations, regardless of their standing, should adopt and promote human rights and freedom problems with zeal. This has occurred as a result of a period in which constitutional rights and liberties have been routinely infringed. The most susceptible victims include children, women, people under colonial authority and those under dictatorial leadership. In Africa, we are witnessing an increase in the frequency, severity, and openness with which fundamental rights, administrative powers, constitutional pledges, and guarantees are violated. Even though their new constitutions adopted after their liberation from colonial rule contained liberal bills of rights or made the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights an integral part of their text, some African countries, such as Libya, Guinea Bissau, the Republic of Congo, Niger, and Madagascar, are ruled by military or one-party dictatorships.
While the purpose of social justice-oriented educational leadership courses is to educate administrators who are sensitive to the lives and well-being of all children, these approaches may easily mean that social justice-minded administrators are inherently conflicted in their everyday operations. The everyday professional life of public school administrators is governed by a plethora of statutes, regulations, and court rulings, all of which may be detrimental to the well-being of many students (Karpinski and Lugg, 2006).
Furthermore, over the last ten years, university administrative preparatory programs have been increasingly concerned with social justice issues. Concerns over the growing number of public school pupils who are considered at-risk for a variety of negative academic and life outcomes have fueled some of this expansion (Karpinski and Lugg, 2006).
The UN Charter’s references to human rights have served as a foundation for developing the content of standards and the system for enforcing human rights protection. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948. All modern constitutions recognize the value of free expression in the pursuit of peace and development. Their constitutions protect freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and the right of citizens to peacefully assemble. Governments prefer to prioritize education in order to improve the situation even more. Every modern constitution mandates free elementary, secondary, and post-secondary education. “Education protects individuals from injustice and exploitation by increasing their knowledge and ability to articulate demands.” (Brownlie, 1971, p.145). Authorities have viewed Brownlie’s viewpoint as a more compelling rationale for pursuing educational policy aggressively. Human rights education is seen as the first step toward creating awareness and empowerment about human rights.
The purpose of education, according to Brown (2004), is to develop a full person. This indicates that one should be able to perform well in society as a result of their education. There should be improvement and change in a person’s social life, spiritual up-liftment, and intellectual development. The more current view of education is fundamentally the same turf, often defined as the ‘eye opener’, ‘key to development’, ‘liberator’, ‘vision for tomorrow’, ‘our future’, to mention but a few.
It’s no surprise, then, that our educational policies have been reviewed and reformatted on a regular basis to keep up with cultural and social developments and people’s expectations. Ghana has been undergoing rapid educational reforms since the 1970s, particularly in primary, secondary, and tertiary institutions.
Education’s aims can only be realized if students’ and learners’ rights and freedoms are forcefully defended and pursued, because there can be no meaningful learning or education under hostile and strenuous conditions. As a result, scholars, educational stakeholders, and the government must work together to eliminate all negative inclinations or attitudes toward human rights and aim to build enabling and favorable learning environments. This is because, according to Chaffee (1966), living in homes and communities where there is violence, neglect, or substance misuse is a barrier to academic performance. In this instance, staying in school becomes a major issue for children who live in families where one or more parents abuse alcohol or drugs, or where there is a concern for one’s safety. Similarly, the repercussions of social injustice and institutionalized child abuse are as disastrous.
The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) serves as the foundation for any definition of education that includes human rights. Since then, human rights declarations have backed up the UDHR’s interpretation of the role of education in achieving respect for and protection of human rights. The UDHR’s preamble emphasizes the importance of human rights and fundamental freedoms in achieving global justice, as well as the role of education in achieving this:
This Universal Declaration of Human Rights is proclamated by the General Assembly… with the aim that every individual and every organ of society, having this Declaration in mind at all times, must seek to foster respect for fundamental rights and freedoms via teaching and instruction… (On the 10th of December, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 217 A (111)).
STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Concern for human rights and social justice appears to be pervasive in today’s educational administration. Today’s administrators, superintendents, and researchers are examining the historically neglected issues of race, ethnicity, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, ability or disability, and class as they relate to the welfare of children and their public school experiences in the hopes of improving academic and social outcomes for all students (Cambron-McCabe and McCarthy, 2005; Larson and Murtadha, 2002; Marshall, 2004; also Furman and Gruenewld, 2004, cited in Karpinski and Lugg, 2006).
Higher education should be a safe sanctuary where respected intellectuals meet to foster a calm environment conducive to good teaching, learning, and research. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and the situation might be defined as volatile at times. Universities have long been regarded as fertile ground for violent disputes and violations of people’s rights and liberties, as evidenced by demonstrations, vandalism, hooliganism, and riots. Human rights and liberties are always at stake in such situations, no matter how justified they appear to be.
In recent years, there have been cases of fundamental human rights violations and violations of the liberties and freedoms of people from all walks of life. Day in and day out, there has been news in both electronic and print media regarding riots, disruptions, violence, lawlessness, and inhuman treatment of individuals of every level and category, even in institutes of higher learning. The Legon students-Police clash in Accra in April 2006; the violent clash between the students of Casley Hayford Hall and Atlantic Hall and the subsequent circumstances that led to the closure of Casley Hayford Hall at the University of Cape Coast (UCC) in April 2008; and the violent clash between the students of Casley Hayford Hall and Atlantic Hall and the subsequent circumstances that led to the closure of Casley Hayford Hall at the University of Cape Coast (UCC) in April 2008. Despite this, no study has been conducted to determine the prevalence of human rights violations in Ghanaian colleges. As a result, it is necessary to investigate the extent to which administrators pursue and preserve human rights and freedoms, the causes of violations or abuses of rights and freedoms, and how human rights and freedoms are integrated into the university’s operations.
OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY
The overall goal of the research is to:
i. Find out the human rights awareness level of administrators, staff and students at the UCC.
ii. investigate the perspective of the administration and students on freedom and human rights in the administration of the University of Cape Coast.
iii. Examine the extent to which human rights and freedoms are pursued in the administration of the University of Cape Coast.
The following research questions guide the objective of the study:
i. What is the human rights awareness level of administrators, staff and students at the UCC?
ii. What is the perspective of the administration and students on freedom and human rights in the administration of the University of Cape Coast?
iii. What is the extent to which human rights and freedoms are pursued in the administration of the University of Cape Coast?
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
Administrators, educators, policymakers, non-governmental organizations, government agencies, and students will all benefit from the study’s findings. The study has provided knowledge and insight into human rights and social justice concerns, as well as a foundation for strengthening human rights education teaching and learning at Ghana’s higher education institutions. This information could be used as a starting point for administrators and educators to learn about human rights and social justice in higher education.
Furthermore, the findings may provide policymakers with guidance on how to strengthen human rights policies in higher education. The findings could provide insight into the Ghanaian mechanisms that support the suppression of human rights in schools. Finally, the findings add to the corpus of information on human rights challenges in Ghana’s higher education institutions.
Finally, this study would add to existing literature on the same topic as to assist researchers.
SCOPE OF THE STUDY
The study uses the University of Cape Coast in the Central Region’s Cape Coast Metropolitan Area as the case study. The study is conceptually limited to the fundamental notion of human rights and freedoms as set forth in the Fundamental Human Rights and the Constitution of the Republic of Ghana (Chapter Five, Articles 12–33). The study focuses on people’s fundamental rights, freedoms, and liberties. It does not, however, attempt to get into specifics about economic and political rights.
LIMITATION OF STUDY
The study is limited to the research participants’ perspectives, opinions, and impressions. Because of the sensitive nature of the topic under investigation, respondents may withhold or distort crucial information for the study. Furthermore, some opinions on human rights and freedoms may be deceptive as a result of uninformed research participants. Another constraint is that student leadership is only in place for a limited period of time; they come and go, changing hands every year.
Despite the care taken in selecting respondents to represent the various categories of students and administrators, the small number of respondents should yield study findings that can be used as pointers for future research as well as hints for possible educational policy direction regarding human rights.
DEFINITION OF TERMS
STUDENTS: a person who is studying at a university or other place of higher education.
ADMINISTRATION: the process or activity of running a business, organization, etc.
FREEDOM: the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants.
HUMAN RIGHTS: Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms that belong to every person in the world, from birth until death.