Nineteen Harvard Law School students have been awarded 2016 Chayes International Public Service Fellowships. This summer the fellows will be working in Colombia, Chile, Costa Rica, Guam, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Mexico, Poland, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Ukraine, as well as San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Read the 2016 Chayes Fellows biographies.
My main project at the Equal Education Law Centre is a memo about sexual offenses committed by educators in schools—a very sad but interesting and important topic. It can be frustrating, as some of the data I need about the implementation of various laws and policies just doesn’t exist, but it’s also exciting because there are real gaps in the law and administrative guidelines that I can explore. I also think that it’s good for me to get more comfortable with this kind of research, mixing the legal framework with information about how the laws actually operate throughout the country. I’ve circulated my final memo to the office, and recently gave a presentation to the attorneys on my findings.
I’ve also been working on other ongoing projects, such as checking provincial plans to see if they’re consistent with commitments made to specific communities. I also had a chance to attend and help out at the Equal Education National Congress. Equal Education is the broader social movement to which the Law Centre is attached, and this was their second conference after the first in 2012, with delegates from a number of provinces.
I also went with the attorneys to Dunoon, a township in Cape Town, to collect information from parents whose children have been illegally rejected from school. That was downright inspiring—a group of the parents have set up their own unofficial school to try to keep their children learning and safe. Hopefully we can help, too—the Centre is currently in contact with the Department of Education on their behalf.
For the last period of my stay, I am helping with the EELC shadow report on the Department of Basic Education’s 2015/16 annual performance plan and analysis of implementation plans for national norms and standards regarding school infrastructure that the provinces have recently released, partly in response to a previous EELC/EE campaign to get the national Department of Basic Education to promulgate these legally binding norms and standards.
Since my very first day I’ve been immersed in interesting and varied work. The South African constitution is very much a living document, allowing international law to be used as an aspiring standard. It also creates a range of socioeconomic rights, seeking to correct decades of inequality under apartheid.
Our office focuses mostly on education. In this area of the country, schools are falling apart, supplies and furniture are lacking, education quality is low, many teachers are absent from the classroom, and children often walk hours and many kilometers each day to get to school. The constitution enshrines the right to education, but that right is jeopardized without access to these basic elements.
I have been working on issues of providing students with transport to school and proper sanitation facilities. I researched international law for an upcoming court hearing on student transport and made an advocacy video using photos and videos of students walking to school. We received the judgment and order last week from the case; the judge has ordered that transportation be provided for many of those students. I am now in the process of calling other schools that have transport and toilet issues so that we can build upon that judgment and provide for these students.
Part of the experience has been to rejoice in the good, like the court’s order, while facing the emotional challenges of this work. Soon after the hearing we received word that one of the children who walks to one of the schools we represented had been raped during her commute. She had not been included on our case because she walked less than the distance required by the government for transport (5 kilometers each way). I wrote a memo to the police, calling on them to provide security for the students who walk on dangerous roads, so that the school community could use it to request protection.
During my last week, we will be traveling to interview a rural community embattled against a mining company that wants to work on their land. On the way back, we plan to visit some of the schools we represent and to assess whether the government has made any progress in improving their conditions.
I wish I could stay longer than two months. I am doing substantial legal work and am constantly exposed to a range of social issues.
Nineteen Harvard Law School students have been awarded the 2015 Chayes International Public Service Fellowship this summer. They are working abroad in China, Colombia, France, Ghana, India, Kenya, Myanmar, Namibia, Palestine, South Africa, Switzerland, Thailand, Uganda, and the United Kingdom, as well as in Washington, DC. Read the 2015 Chayes Fellows Biographies.
Join us in welcoming the three students from HLS’ exchange partner schools who arrived last week.
Jennifer Eborall (Jen) is a student from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Naomi Hart is studying at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.
Yanzhu Sun is a student at Renmin University Law School in Beijing, China.
They’ve joined two fall semester exchange students who are continuing their studies through the spring semester:
Jean Grosdidier is a student at Sciences Po in Paris, France.
Barrie Sander is a student at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland.
Want to learn more about study abroad opportunities? Visit the semester abroad and HLS-University of Cambridge joint degree program pages on our website. Applications to spend a semester abroad next fall are due by February 15.