Isn’t education a human right for everyone?
The right to education is enshrined in article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The declaration calls for free and compulsory elementary education.
Why is it then that 258 million children and youths still do not attend school; 617 million children and adolescents cannot read and do basic maths; less than 40% of girls in sub-Saharan Africa complete lower secondary school and some four million children and youth refugees are out of school?
Their right to education is being violated and it is unacceptable. We are failing millions of children, youths and adults, increasing their exposure to poverty, violence and exploitation.
Without inclusive and equitable good quality education and lifelong opportunities for all, countries will not succeed in achieving gender equality and breaking the cycle of poverty that is leaving millions of children, youths and adults behind.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated a pre-existing education crisis. Reliance on digital technology for learning has deepened exclusion and gender inequalities. Without remedial action, better support to teachers and increased financing, learning losses and school dropout will continue to rise, reversing progress towards all the Sustainable Development Goals and depriving youth of a future of dignity and opportunity.
As we mark the fourth International Day of Education, our world stands at a turning point. Gaping inequalities, a damaged planet, growing polarization and the devastating impact of the global pandemic put before us a generational choice; to continue on an unsustainable path or radically change course.
As was detailed in UNESCO’s recent global Futures of Education report entitled, ‘Reimagining our futures together’ transforming the future requires an urgent rebalancing of our relationships with each other, with nature as well as with technology. This permeates our lives, bringing breakthrough opportunities while raising serious concerns for equity, inclusion and democratic participation.
The Report proposes answers to three fundamental questions:
- What should we continue doing?
- What should we abandon?
- What needs to be creatively reimagined?
The COVID-19 pandemic is a stark reminder of our fragilities and interconnectedness. We can only transform together, through solidarity and cooperation.
To redefine our relationship with the planet, learning must empower students with the mindsets and competences to care for it through education for sustainable development. Crucially, teachers are at the heart of education renewal. The pandemic has more than ever highlighted their irreplaceable role. Providing teachers with the recognition and professional support to collaborate and innovate will carry strong influence on the futures of learning. Finally, redefining our relationship with technology begins with ensuring that digital tools benefit all and are at the service of all, starting with the most marginalised. The digital transformation must be steered around inclusion and quality
This year’s International Day of Education will be a platform to showcase the most important transformations that have to be nurtured to realize everyone’s fundamental right to education and build more sustainable, inclusive and peaceful futures. It will generate debate around how to strengthen education as a public endeavour and common good, how to steer the digital transformation, support teachers, safeguard the planet and unlock the potential in every person to contribute to collective well-being and our shared home.
So, what are Soroptimists doing to help ‘change course and transform education’?
Soroptimist Clubs from across the Federation have supported disadvantaged women and girls to access education by offering scholarships or bursaries for STEM related subjects, paying school fees as well as helping with the costs of uniforms, books and equipment etc. (Project 57834)
During the pandemic when most forms of education had to take place online, Clubs throughout the Federation donated funds or hardware such as desk top PCs, laptops, tablets, mobile phones, headphones and dongles to enable education to continue for those learners who would otherwise not have been able to access their learning. (Projects 58416, 58048)
Several Clubs work with migrants or marginalised girls to support them in learning English to enable them to seek employment. (Project 57051)
Members of one Club have been working with their local primary schools to develop pupils’ understanding of Climate Change by facilitating after school clubs and extra-curricular activities, which support maths learning, wildlife challenges and science activities as well as deepening their awareness of the issues faced by our planet. (Project 58344)