Assessing the importance of School clinics to realizing access to justice for the poor in Africa
Paper presented at the 2013 CLEA Conference in Durban
University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa
In recent times Universities legal aid clinics are becoming very relevant in providing legal support services for the poor in society. This development has led to a situation where more and more poor people are made to seek redress for the violation of their rights. It is a common saying that the court of law is the refuge of the poor and disadvantaged in the society. However, in many African countries realizing justice for the poor remains a great challenge due to a number of factors. First, the justice system is structured in such a way that only the rich and the well-to-do can truly access justice due to high cost of obtaining the services of a lawyer or filing court papers. It is incontestable that legal fees in many African countries remain excessively high for the poor to afford. Second, the poor and disadvantaged are often ignorant about their rights and are unable to seek redress when their rights are violated. Third, the legal aid services provided by governments in most of African countries are poorly funded and are therefore unable to meet the needs of the vulnerable and marginalized groups in society. The emergence of Universities legal aid clinics have suddenly become a light in the tunnel for poor and disadvantaged people. They are able to provide free or highly subsidized legal services for the most disadvantaged, provide counseling and education on human rights and render effective services for the poor. The result has been that thousands of poor and disadvantaged people who would have been without any hope of seeking redress for human rights violations are now able to effectively access the justice system. Although while one recognizes that these legal aid clinics face some challenges, it is not in doubt that they have contributed greatly to bringing justice to poor in Africa.