Day of the African Child

Day of the African Child 2015

As I am in Tanzania working on School Readiness and the improvement in teacher performance it is pertinent for me and others to celebrate all those efforts of getting children to participate in education of sufficient quality that will help all children to flourish and be resilient in the face of future challenges.

The Day of the African Child has been celebrated on June 16th every year since 1991, The day commemorates the 1976 South African-Soweto uprising, during which hundreds of black school children in the Soweto Apartheid regime were brutally gunned down while protesting the inferior quality of their education.

The Day of the African Child provides an opportunity to draw attention to the work of all actors committed to the rights of children on the continent of Africa and to address the obstacles preventing us from realizing these rights. The day also presents the opportunity for governments, international institutions and organizations to renew their ongoing commitments toward improving the plight of children in Africa.

On this day, we want to draw attention to the continued need for improvements in education for African children. According to UNESCO, Africa is home to 43% of the world’s out-of-school primary age children, and most of the 30 million children who are out of school in sub-Saharan Africa will never go to school at all.

On a continent where millions of children subsist on less than 1 euro per day, education represents a way out of poverty for many. Education also helps fight the spread of diseases, improves children’s health, and promotes peaceful and inclusive societies. Further, it promotes confidence and cohesion, and is essential for the psychosocial well-being of children, especially during times of conflict.

A few excerpts from INEE’s recent essay contest give voice to the importance of education among children in Africa:

“Education meant “peace” to me during this period [of crisis]. It felt like a safe word that kept the evil away. It was the only thing that took my mind off it all. No matter what the subject was, it didn’t matter to me. Even if it was Chemistry which I found boring, it felt like all the subjects said the same things: “Peace” “Keep calm” and “Safety”. — Jephthah, Nigeria
“Ever since I was a little girl, I knew that if I was to be successful in life, I had to go to school.” — Ivy, Kenya
“In difficult times, education allows the younger generation to forget the pain and suffering they experienced. To those who are victim of crisis and who are vulnerable, education opens their future to new opportunities.”
— Mahikan Desire, Ivory Coast (living in Liberia)

“[Education] made us useful in the society, rather than making us useless. That is to say, we lost everything we had (homes, parents, relatives, friends, even food), but education was not lost, because it is the key to a happy life.”
— Gompou, Ivory Coast (living in Liberia)

To read the complete essays from these African children and others from around the world, download the booklet: The Brightest Hope: Essays from around the world on the importance of education in times of crisis

World Environment Day 2015 – threats or promises?

For some people, any discussion about the ‘environment’ is a threat -perhaps to their business or to their daily way of life. For others, there is the promise that if we look after the environment we shall all benefit and together we can secure a healthy future for generations to come.

 

The well-being of humanity, the environment, and the functioning of the economy, ultimately depend upon the responsible management of the planet’s natural resources. Evidence is building that people are consuming far more natural resources than what the planet can sustainably provide.

Many of the Earth’s ecosystems are nearing critical tipping points of depletion or irreversible change, pushed by high population growth and economic development. By 2050, if current consumption and production patterns remain the same and with a rising population expected to reach 9.6 billion, we will need three planets to sustain our ways of living and consumption.

The World Environment Day (WED ) theme this year is therefore “Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care.” Living within planetary boundaries is the most promising strategy for ensuring a healthy future. Human prosperity need not cost the earth. Living sustainably is about doing more and better with less. It is about knowing that rising rates of natural resource use and the environmental impacts that occur are not a necessary by-product of economic growth.

– See more at: http://www.unep.org/wed/theme/sustainable-consumpion.asp#sthash.Koakgpuc.dpuf

For indigenous people, in particular, who often live in harmony with their environment, their future is threatened :

 

 

A transformative vision?

The vision for education has often been too limited or even absent in public education, often due to a fire-fighting attitude because of  low investment, lack of teachers, poor quality etc. Lets hope that a ‘transformative vision’ , as described below, can translate into real change and more investment in education (rather than arms and the war industries!)

INCHEON, Republic of Korea, 21 May 2015 – A transformative vision for education over the next 15 years has been adopted at the World Education Forum, which concluded today in Incheon, Republic of Korea. The Incheon Declaration was welcomed by the global education community, including government ministers from more than 100 countries, non-governmental organizations and youth groups. It encourages countries to provide inclusive, equitable, quality education and life-long learning opportunities for all. The Declaration will underpin the education targets in the Sustainable Development Goals that will be ratified at the United Nations in September.

“This Declaration is a huge step forward,” stated the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova.  “It reflects our determination to ensure that all children and young people gain the knowledge and skills they need to live in dignity, to reach their potential and contribute to their societies as responsible global citizens. It encourages governments to provide learning opportunities through life, so that people can continue to grow and develop. It affirms that education is the key to global peace and sustainable development.”

The Incheon Declaration builds on the global Education for All (EFA) movement that was initiated in Jomtien, Thailand in 1990 and reiterated in Dakar, Senegal in 2000. EFA – and the Millennium Development Goal on Education – resulted in significant progress, but many of its targets, including universal access to primary education, remain unfulfilled. Currently, 58 million children remain out of school – most of them girls. In addition 250 million children are not learning basic skills, even though half of them have spent at least four years in school. The Incheon Declaration must finish the ambitious EFA and MDG agendas.

“If this generation of children is to someday reduce the inequalities and injustices that afflict the world today, we must give all our children a fair chance to learn.  This must be our collective vision and commitment,” said UNICEF Executive Director, Anthony Lake.

The Incheon Declaration will be implemented through the Education 2030 Framework for Action, a roadmap for governments to be adopted by the end of the year. It will provide guidance on effective legal and policy frameworks for education, based on the principles of accountability, transparency and participatory governance. Effective implementation will require strong regional coordination and rigorous monitoring and evaluation of the education agenda. It will also require more funding, especially for the countries furthest from providing inclusive, quality education. The Declaration and Framework will urge countries to set nationally appropriate spending targets and increase Official Development Assistance to low income countries.

Speakers at the closing ceremony included Susan Hopgood, President of Education International, Kishore Singh, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, Mohamed Sameh Amr, Chair of UNESCO’s Executive Board, Georg Kell, Executive Director of the UN Global Compact, António Guterres, High Commissioner of UNHCR (via video), Geeta Rao Gupta, UNICEF’s Deputy Executive Director, Keith Hansen, Global Practices Vice President of the World Bank Group, Michaëlle Jean, Secretary-General of La Francophonie, Hwang Woo Yeo, Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea and Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO.

“We all agree that every student has the right to quality, free, public education,” said Susan Hopgood, the President of Education International – an organization representing more than 30 million teachers and education workers around the world. “However, in order to realize any education goals, students in every classroom must be guaranteed a well-trained, professionally-qualified, motivated and supported teacher. Providing quality education for all will require changes to education systems. To implement the Education 2030 Framework for Action and improve the quality of education, it is fundamental that our education systems are transformed into ones that foster an open and collaborative culture.”

Education is essential to achieving all of the new Sustainable Development Goals. It is necessary to eradicate poverty, boost shared prosperity and broad-based economic growth, and build peaceful, tolerant societies. Today’s Declaration demonstrates the common commitment to deliver this vision. It shows how education can transform lives.

###

Quotes from the co-convenors

UNHCR

“We have a collective responsibility to ensure education plans take into account the needs of some the most vulnerable children and youth in the world – refugees, internally displaced children, stateless children and children whose right to education has been compromised by war and insecurity. These children are the keys to a secure and sustainable future, and their education matters for us all.” António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

UNFPA

“Together we must promote and protect every person’s right to education, and ensure that quality education reaches all, and instils values of peace, justice, human rights and gender equality. We are proud to have been a co-convener of the World Education Forum and pledge to take forward the new action agenda on education for all by 2030.” Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA Executive Director.

UN Women

“The Incheon Declaration rightly commits us to non-discriminatory education that recognizes the importance of gender equality and women’s empowerment for sustainable development. This is a crucial opportunity for us to work together, across sectors, towards the fulfilment of the Education for All promise of peaceful, just and equal societies. A world where people are equal can only be achieved if our education also universally teaches this.” Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women Executive Director and UN Under-Secretary-General.

 

and how do we know when we have made progress…read on….

New Proposed Indicators to Monitor the Post-2015 Education Framework
EFA Report

The post-2015 sustainable development agenda, including the education goal, has received praise for its ambitious and universal scope. The challenge now lies in developing a solid monitoring framework, which can be used to track progress towards the targets while helping to focus international efforts on areas that might be left behind.

This blog presents the proposal – by the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) established by UNESCO – for a set of indicators to monitor the post-2015 education targets. This proposal will be presented at a special session of the World Education Forum in Incheon on 20 May.  The proposal complements the draft Framework for Action on Education 2030, which will be debated at the Forum.

The TAG proposal includes 42 thematic indicators that could be used to monitor education progress globally. Ultimately, it is expected that about six to ten of these indicators will be selected by the United Nations Statistical Commission to monitor progress towards the Sustainable Development Goal 4 on education, while the broader set of indicators proposed will be used to monitor progress towards the 10 education targets under this Goal.

To read more about the proposed indicators, click here

 

2015 – a year of fear?

Fear is not a new emotion for children, particularly when relating it to school. Children have been bullied, been threatened and humiliated by teachers and other students, just for being different or coming from a home where poverty is experienced. But a range of new fears are affecting children worldwide whether it is from direct conflict and its associated threats of being drawn into becoming child soldiers or being trafficked for sex or child labour. These threats and fears are on the international agenda:

2015 Is ‘Year of Fear’ for Children Worldwide, Gordon Brown Warns
Children are bearing the brunt of escalating worldwide refugee crises, armed conflicts and natural emergencies with 2015 – dubbed “the year of fear” – already the most dangerous since 1945 for the youngest and most vulnerable in society, according to Gordon Brown, UN special envoy for global education.

Delivering an impassioned call for urgent international action in a briefing in New York, the former British prime minister said more than half the world’s record numbers of 38 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and 16.7 million refugees are children.

“This is not the year of the child but the year of fear, with 2015 already the worst year since 1945 for children being displaced, the worst year for children becoming refugees, the worst year for children seeing their schools attacked,” he said. “We expect the figure to rise in crisis zone after crisis zone as even school-age children who were once at school are being forced into child labor. Today in some of the world’s most troubled spots it is open season for traffickers, with girls snatched from the streets in Nepal to adolescents forced into marriage in Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan.”

The extreme impact on children of the four-year-old civil war in Syria has received more international attention than many other crises. According to Save the Children, 10,000 Syrian children have been killed since the conflict began, 5.6 million are in need of humanitarian aid and 3.5 million have been forced from their homes. Nearly 2 million children have fled the country, while 3 million are unable to go to school.

But 2015 has also seen an alarming spate of new, or renewed, crises including those in Burma and Bangladesh, where many of the Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants who have fled by sea in recent weeks are unaccompanied children under 18.

Former child soldiers wait to be released in Bambari, Central African Republic, in May as part of a UN-brokered deal.

Former child soldiers wait to be released in Bambari, Central African Republic, in May as part of a UN-brokered deal. Photograph: Emmanuel Braun/Reuters

In northern Nigeria and Pakistan, schools have been attacked and schoolgirls abducted by Islamist extremists. In Burundi, more than 100,000 refugees, mostly women and children, have fled current political unrest. Many are now at risk from a cholera epidemic affecting makeshift camps in Tanzania, with 400 new cases being reported daily.

In South Sudan, children are being forcibly recruited as child soldiers as internal conflict has flared in the wake of the country’s 2011 declaration of independence. In Nepal, meanwhile, homeless young girls have become increasingly vulnerable to people traffickers in the wake of the recent earthquake disaster.

“This week, Nepalese state radio messages are confirming what we already know,” Brown said. “In the midst of the fallout from the earthquake, the government is directly warning half a million girls – now on the streets – and their parents, to beware of suspicious gangs trying to recruit them and traffic them out of the country.”

Brown said improved educational opportunities provided the best way to help vulnerable children, and called for the creation of a new international fund to help quickly target and assist young people caught up in wars and emergencies. He called on governments, aid agencies and development organisations to back the proposed “global humanitarian fund for education in emergencies”, which he said could be launched at the UN general assembly in New York in September.

The UN’s World Education Forum, held in Incheon, South Korea, this month, heard that worldwide, 58 million children currently have no schooling at all, while 250 million are not learning basic skills even though half have spent at least four years at school.

The forum adopted targets intended to provide “inclusive, equitable, quality education for all”, underpinning the new Sustainable Development Goals that will supersede the 15-year-old Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) when the general assembly meets this autumn.

Significant progress has been made in some least developed countries in improving early life education but many aspects of the MDGs on education, including universal access to primary education, remain unmet, the forum was told.

Anthony Lake, executive director of the UN children’s fund (Unicef), said: “If this generation of children is to someday reduce the inequalities and injustices that afflict the world today, we must give all our children a fair chance to learn. This must be our collective vision and commitment.”

Kishore Singh, UN special rapporteur on education, called for new strategies focusing on girls and women, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities and children living in conflict-affected areas, rural areas and urban slums. He said: “It is the weakest among us who need education the most and we cannot stand by as they are being excluded.”

A lesson in War

Of course, we do not subscribe to wars of any sort, but if it happens, at least have some ‘rules’ to protect children in both hospitals and schools. Here is an article promoted through the INEE newsletter:

Lessons in War 2015 Military Use of Schools and Universities During Armed Conflict
GCPEA

States should act to deter the military use of schools and universities, said the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) in a study released today. The use of schools and universities for military purposes during conflict by armed forces and non-state armed groups endangers students and their education.

GCPEA called on governments to join a “Safe Schools Declaration” that will be finalized by states at an inter-governmental conference in Oslo, Norway, on May 28-29. The Declaration will represent a political commitment to improve the protection of education during conflict, including by implementing the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict. States should follow the lead of countries that have been impacted by war, such as Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Liberia, and Palestine, which have already expressed their intention to join and support the Declaration.

The 92-page study, “Lessons in War 2015: Military Use of Schools and Universities during Armed Conflict” documents how in the majority of conflicts around the world, schools and universities are converted into barracks, logistics bases, operational headquarters, weapons and ammunition caches, detention and interrogation centers, firing and observation positions, and recruitment grounds.

To read the full study, click here.

Resilience – some new resources

There is growing evidence of the need to strengthen the resilience of education systems. Including crisis prevention and peacebuilding measures in educational policy and planning is one mechanism for achieving this. If the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals are to be truly sustainable, conflict and disaster risk reduction must be embedded in sector policies, plans and budgets. 

New Website with  Resources on Education for Safety, Resilience and Social Cohesion

UNESCO/ PEIC

As part of a programme of collaboration to promote education for safety, resilience and social cohesion in education sector planning and curricula between the UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP) and the Protect Education in Insecurity and Conflict programme (PEIC, Qatar), members of the PEIC – IIEP Advisory Group (including GPE, Kenya MoEST, NORAD, Uganda MoES, UNICEF HQ, UNICEF WCARO, UNICEF EAPRO, USAID) met at UNICEF Headquarters in New York City from 5 to 6 March 2015.

During the first phase of this programme, an online repository of documents and a website was produced. This website http://education4resilience.iiep.unesco.org/ exists in both English and French, and serves to consolidate and centralize documents related to educational planning for safety, resilience and social cohesion. It also includes resources on curriculum for learning to live together and disaster risk reduction. The website was developed with crisis contexts in mind, and uses relatively simple technology to ensure that individuals in even the most remote locations can access the site. It is important to note that the Resources page of the website is linked to an online database of approximately 400 documents which are searchable by theme (planning or curriculum), a series of keywords, country, resource type, organization and language.

Click to access the new website.

“Education for All 2000-2015: Achievements and Challenges”

Following my last post mentioning that about 4 and half days of global military spending could pay for a quality education for all post 2015 -we can look at the details of the challenges that lie ahead:

2015 EFA Global Monitoring Report (GMR)
“Education for All 2000-2015: Achievements and Challenges”

UNESCO

Just one third of countries have achieved all of the measurable Education for All (EFA) goals set in 2000. Only half of all countries have achieved the most watched goal of universal primary enrollment. An extra $22 billion a year is needed on top of already ambitious government contributions in order to ensure we achieve the new education targets now being set for the year 2030.

These are the key findings of the 2015 EFA Global Monitoring Report (GMR) “Education for All 2000-2015: Achievements and Challenges”, produced by UNESCO which has tracked progress on these goals for the past 15 years. The report  provides a complete assessment of progress since 2000 towards the target date for reaching the Dakar Framework’s goals. It takes stock of whether the world achieved the EFA goals and stakeholders upheld their commitments. It explains possible determinants of the pace of progress. Finally, it identifies key lessons for shaping the post-2015 global education agenda.

To access the report and many supporting resources, click here.