UN agencies call for commitment to transform education in crises


Mary Maker chairs a session on “Education in Crisis Situations – A Partnership for Transformative Actions for Learners” on the last day of the Transforming Education Summit. Credit: UN
  • by Naureen Hossain (United Nations)
  • Inter Press Service

Maker, a South Sudanese refugee who fled her country and found hope while attending a school in Kenya’s Kukuma Refugee Camp, chaired a session called “Education in Crisis Situations – A Partnership for Transformative Actions for Learners” on the last day of the Transforming Education Summit (TES).

The session focused on education and learning in crises and the forced displacement that often results from these situations.

“I am very excited about this session because this is my story. This is the story of so many other refugees,” says Maker, who also supports the UNHCR. “And as we’ve been discussing over the past few days, I hope this call to action actually becomes something we can implement after this session.”

She spoke of the session’s importance, “given the increased displacement around the world and the additional need for collective efforts to transform the provision and funding of quality education.”

On the third and final day of the Transforming Education Summit, member states reaffirmed their commitment to transform education. The TES Leaders Day, September 19, was dedicated to the heads of state and government to present their national state of commitment to the goals of the summit in Leader Roundtables. At the same time, thematic sessions were organized with the aim of setting horizontal priorities for transforming education and reaffirming the commitments and action plans of multiple stakeholders, including world governments, UN partners and civil society organisations.

The session launched “Education in Crisis: A Call to Action”, a commitment to transform education systems so that they can prevent, prepare for, respond to and recover from crises and so that all children affected by crisis have access to permanent, inclusive and safe learning opportunities. The call to action calls on countries, multilateral organisations, civil society and education partners to work towards the agreement by improving access to education and learning outcomes in equality and inclusiveness; protecting and enhancing external financing; working together to build resilient education systems in the spirit of international cooperation; scaling up and mainstreaming impactful and evidence-based interventions in policy and program efforts.

“This commitment to action is the result of extensive consultations with more than 45 crisis-affected countries from five continents, more than 100 civil society organizations and other stakeholders, including young people,” said Estefania Giannini, UNESCO Deputy Director General.

UN agencies, represented by their leaders, emphasized the urgency of education in crisis situations.

UNHCR High Commissioner Filippo Grandi spoke about the impact of mounting crises, such as climate change, famine and armed conflict.

“About all these underlying aspects of crises, forces of crises, you have forced displacement,” he said. “People flee or have to flee their homes because there is fighting. They are forced to flee their homes because of hunger, and they are now increasingly forced to flee their homes because of climate change. More importantly, all these factors are interrelated.”

He added: “And all these faces of crisis are multipliers for vulnerability…These challenges, or crises as we should see them, are a challenge to education.”

As a result of ongoing crises, disasters caused by climate change and forced displacement, 222 million children and young people have experienced disruptions in their education, affecting their access or continuity of learning.

“We have reached a historic – a sad historic – number of forcibly displaced peoples, the highest number since World War II,” Yasmine Sherif, Executive Director of Education Cannot Wait (ECW), said during a panel discussion.

“Despite the magnitude of this challenge, we need to reach them all, and we need to ensure that they learn fundamentally,” said Catherine Russell, UNICEF Executive Director.

Russell appealed directly to the heads of state and government to prioritize education, especially access to it in times of crisis. “We need your help to provide domestic and humanitarian funds for education. We need you to prevent or stop attacks on education. We need your commitment to build resilient education systems so they can withstand the future shocks we know are coming. And we need your commitment to secure education for the most vulnerable children.”

Member states represented in the session, including Qatar, Ecuador, South Sudan, Pakistan, Norway, Switzerland, the European Commission and the State of Palestine, reaffirmed their support for the Commitment to Action, and shared their states’ implementations for improving of access to training.

“We know that education systems must be resilient enough to prevent, prepare for, fend off and recover from armed conflict. Our call to action will hopefully do that,” Virginia Gamba, UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, said as she wrapped up the spotlight session.

“Alignment between national priorities and international obligations is critical to making education systems more resilient and can ensure the protection of children and their rights, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

Indeed, this spirit of international multi-stakeholder collaboration will be critical to transform education at a fundamental level. In the global conversation, this will be revisited with the ECW High-Level Financing Conference, scheduled for February 16-17, 2023. The conference will take place in Geneva, with co-conveners South Sudan, Niger, Germany and Norway.

Report of the IPS UN Office

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© Inter Press Service (2022) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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