Kenyan human-rights activist Chris Mburu shed light on the importance of considering education as a fundamental human right on Thursday. The event, which drew more than 100 people, was organized by the UCF Global Perspectives Office as part of the 2012-2013 theme, “The Changing Face of Freedom in Today’s Turbulent Times.”

Growing up in a small village in Kenya, Mburu was able to attend secondary school only because of a Swedish woman named Hilde Back who sponsored him. Now with an advanced degree from Harvard Law School, Mburu said he considers himself “very privileged” to have gotten an education.

Mburu explained that while education is not considered a civil or political right by most people, it is an important economic, social and cultural right. “You see that ignorance is used as a tool for political power,” he said.

Mburu shared some familiar tragedies in the developing world. For example, he discussed how warlords in some countries recruit mainly among the impoverished and uneducated. Further, he said, police feel that they can violate those same people’s civil rights because they are unaware of the proper channels to defend themselves. Mburu offered education as the solution to these problems. It is, he said, the foundation of development and peace.

Discussing the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Mburu underscored Article 26, which says, “Everyone has the right to education.” However, he explained, the declaration is not legally binding on signatories. To Mburu, the right to education should be guaranteed. 

Mburu encouraged audience members to consider what they might do individually to promote education. In honor of his sponsor, Mburu created a scholarship program in Kenya called the Hilde Back Education Fund. The story is the subject of an award-winning documentary, “A Small Act.” He reflected on the meaning of the film’s title by suggesting that we “try to do small things,” rather than focus on the inability to do everything that is needed to fix global problems.

In addition to the Global Perspectives Office, sponsors and partners included UCF Global Peace and Security Studies Program, UCF Diplomacy Program, Lawrence J. Chastang and the Chastang Foundation, UCF Political Science Department, UCF International Services Center, UCF LIFE, UCF Book Festival 2013 in association with the Morgridge International Reading Center and the Global Connections Foundation.