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Between Commodities and Rights

Updated: Apr 22, 2021

By Abdullah Almohammad

Education and healthcare have shifted from being fundamental human rights to commodities. People have to buy in to get a decent education, or to even be allowed into hospitals to get cured from a disease. As emphasized by Nelson Mandela, “Education is the best way to empower the next generation” (1). Unfortunately, there are many people in the world without a good education. And for them, and for about everyone today, having a certain amount of knowledge is key to survival. The defiance of hardship onset by an acceptable education gives a person the standards of standing against anyone, and the capability to live anywhere they want. Similarly, having healthcare fulfills the basic requirement that one needs to survive. Therefore, education and healthcare are two basic human needs. If one is educated enough and has the best healthcare facilities around, they can not only survive, but make the world a much better place.

Human rights are those needs that human beings cannot do without, and are not specific to any gender or race. With these needs fulfilled, humans have the ability to thrive if they are available, or lack a sufficient life if they’re absent. Progressive critics argue that there are different human rights. In some cases, the definitions of human rights vary according to the state one lives in, culture and civil boundaries. For instance, the right to vote is not exercised in some countries; even when practiced, it is violated or interfered with. This right is mostly categorized as a civil and political right that differs from rights such as healthcare, education and housing (which are considered as economic, social and cultural rights, or “ESC” rights). One can agree that some ESC rights should be regarded as “basic” due to not being able to survive without. Such rights include the right to have access to good healthcare services. Ignoring these basic rights is dangerous and can result in an unhealthy society. In some countries, governments are negligent in providing healthcare as a right. Consequently, those who ignore providing various healthcare facilities to the general public always lack a healthy growing society.

Despite healthcare being the right of any human, education is considered the key to life by most scholars. Being educated gives one a different view of the world, making it easier to adjust to different conditions by applying knowledge.

Being denied education is like cold-blooded murder—a killing that has no empathy nor feelings.

Refusing to give education to the people that cannot afford it can have many major effects. It kills a generation and denies them a better future (2). Therefore, for anyone to live a well-deserved life, they need to have access to amenities like a good education.

Mali, a country located in West Africa, has the highest level of illiteracy. Fifty-one percent of the population above the age of eighteen are unable to read or write (3). This means that the country has its major adult population unable to solve problems that are facing society. The larger number of citizens cannot interpret challenges the country is facing without the help of others. Also, they cannot familiarize themselves with the trends in the country’s economic conditions. By equipping them with education, they can become more competent with the rest of the world. Education is an eye-opener and an economical stabilizer. A lack of education slows down the pace of the whole country. Governments not investing in educating their citizens could be a dangerous move, economically and socially.

In the modern world, earning respect with money in equal measures is begotten by the attainment of an education. “Education is termed as a social class stabilizer” and education gives an individual an upper hand to handle people around them (4). People who have been education are not only seen as special, but also capable of coming in to change the world by devising new means to move society forward. They are thus given priority in society to move and develop, and sought after to solve problems the world faces.

For instance, global warming and climate change is a challenge that can make the human race go extinct if those with knowledge on how to curb the situation do not take action (5). This places those with education as the only people we can truly rely upon to deliver and salvage us from the challenges we face. They are educated enough to come up with technology that can reduce the effects of such cases. On the other hand, those who do not understand this certain phenomena may be seen as a burden. And this is why education is a basic need—for the world to fight the exacerbated climatic changes among many challenges facing us ahead, we need educated people.

Having knowledge can also be integrated into the world having good healthcare. One challenge is that the medical field requires a high level of understanding—the world needs more educated people in the field of medicine to better life. The world also needs countries to adopt healthcare as a basic right. Those countries whose healthcare systems are poorly developed always tend to be at the bottom of records in average age, childbirth death tolls and overall public health. For instance, a recorded ten percent of mothers in South Sudan died while giving birth in 2008 (6). This suggests that good healthcare is a basic need that South Sudan is lacking. In addition, there are other alarming numbers and charts that show the consequences of not implementing such rights. During the war in Sudan before the state split, there was a record of 53 percent of patients admitted to hospitals demanding blood. The UN and other nongovernmental organizations had facilities to take care of only ten percent of those people, presumably leaving the rest to suffer. Such incidents showcase the effects of missed healthcare needs that should have been fulfilled because healthcare is the basic right of the living.

With all of this going on, there are also many diseases that humans are facing as a result of changes in the environment. Therefore, decent healthcare is necessary for the survival of all human beings. Survival in some countries is now based on how much better the healthcare system is developed; the higher development, the better. This is the reason why life expectancy in countries such as Norway and Finland (where the healthcare system is well developed) is way higher than those countries that have poor healthcare systems (7). A higher level of investment in healthcare is essential to the survival of humans.

Both education and healthcare are necessary to a better human life and in competing with the rest of the world. A person missing out on having those rights can lead to endless consequences, both in personal life and to society as a whole. Countries all over the world should therefore work hard to ensure that these rights are provided, implemented, and given equally to everyone. The two rights should be up to date and provided at the right time, as education is best provided to people when they are still young, and good healthcare should always be available on demand. They both are critical to all of us, for our continued existence, and that is why they are basic human rights.


  1. Andreotti, V. O. (2014). Soft versus critical global citizenship education. In Development education in policy and practice (pp. 21-31). Palgrave Macmillan, London.

  2. David, H. (2014). Skills, education, and the rise of earnings inequality among the" other 99 percent".

  3. Diarra, M. C. (2015). Mali: An overview, trends and futures. Education in West Africa, 297.

  4. Feiertag, J., & Berge, Z. L. (2008). Training Generation N: how educators should approach the Net Generation. Education+ Training, 50(6), 457-464.

  5. Sen, A. (2011). Quality of life: India vs. China. The New York Review of Books, 12, 2.

  6. Sjøberg, S. (2002). Science and technology education: Current challenges and possible solutions. Innovations in science and technology education, 8, 296-307.


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