The UN General Assembly has kicked off in the near-gridlocked city of New York for a week of meetings and speeches. It’s a critical time for education and Education International is here to voice concerns of the world’s educators; to keep access to quality education for all students high on the agenda.
Education International was invited to the UN Secretary General's high-level event to review progress made so far to reach the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. His Education First initiative was noted as a crucial way to build momentum and focus attention on the role of education in development.
Though EI’s Unite for Quality Education campaign doesn’t launch officially until Oct. 4, the focus of discussions concerning international education is clearly around the three pillars of the campaign – quality teachers, quality tools and resources, and quality environments for teaching and learning.
In the morning event spotlighting some successes in meeting the millennium goals, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova underlined the growing consensus that the quality of education cant be improved without turning to and working with teachers.
In a later high-level event focusing on the crisis of education in emergencies, HRH Queen Rania of Jordan called for an increase in funding for education in emergencies and called for a shift in mindset.
With nearly 30 million children denied even access to education due to conflict, she urged participants to consider loss of education an emergency itself, rather than among a range of services requiring continuity.
Participants discussed the need for a comprehensive approach to humanitarian assistance; not only tents and food but education is considered life-saving. Currently two million children are out of school in Syria and in refugee situations.
In The UN Special Envoy Gordon Brown called on everybody to step up efforts of assistance. In 2011, 2.4 percent of humanitarian aid was spent on education.
The Puntland education minister, Abdi Farah Said Juxa, drew a solemn silence when he opened his comments by declaring of Somalia, “My country is broken…We have lost two generations of children, we cannot afford to lose a third.” He went on to say that access to education was only part of the problem, that quality education was critical, aided by a new focus required for teacher training.
EI’s day in New York was far from over when the Minister made her statement, but it was a fitting way to describe the prevailing sentiment.
-- Antonia Wulff