Responding to negative impact of COVID-19, the UN Member States, UN agencies and key actors in the field of education reaffirmed their commitment to transform education in an egalitarian, resilient and inclusive way at “Education post-COVID 19”, a United Nations High-Level Political Forum side event, that took place on 9 July, 2020.
Organized by UNESCO and the SDG-Education 2030 Steering Committee, with support from the Group of Friends for Education and Lifelong Learning, this virtual event brought together high level personalities from the World Bank, UNICEF, OECD, Global Partnership for Education, Education International and youth representatives to assess the pandemic’s impact on learning. The discussions focused on the new realities for schools and the need to tackle amplified inequalities, as well as clear call for partnerships and innovation and redoubling renewed support for education financing which is deemed essential for driving forward SDG4.
“Our first estimates find that 20 million students are at risk of not returning to school. Without the right policy choices backed up by resources, the learning crisis will deepen with cascading repercussions across all the development goals,” said Ms. Stefania Giannini, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Education. “No society can afford this. This is a time to recommit to education, better and differently, reaching beyond our circles.”
From the outset of the event, Mr. Jaime Saavedra, the World Bank’s Global Director for Education, announced a joint multi-partner global campaign #SaveOurFuture which aims to reimagine our education system following a deepening learning crisis and to engage people in dialogues around education across the globe. Mr. Gordon Brown, the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, stressed the need to promote safe and connected schools during and beyond the pandemic. “Together we can put together the case that we’ll be developing all of the talents of all of our children,” said Mr. Brown.
H.E. Ms. Mona Juul, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Norway to the United Nations, delivered a statement on behalf of the Group of Friends for Education and Lifelong Learning, co-chaired by the Permanent Missions of Argentina, Czech Republic, Japan, Kenya and Norway. Ambassador Juul reaffirmed the Group’s commitment to education as an enabler for peace, human rights, equality, human well-being as well as green growth, and called on all parties to seize this momentum to scale up international and domestic investment in education as a prerequisite for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda. “This crisis presents an opportunity for all stakeholders to come together and improve coordination within the global education architecture. This begins with the SDG Education Steering Committee, our main multi-stakeholder coordination mechanism for the implementation of SDG 4 on education. Through engaged leadership, genuine commitments, and coordinated actions during and after the COVID 19 response, the education community can leverage the comparative advantages of all actors to truly deliver for the children and youth of the world” — Ambassador Juul reiterated the dedicated engagement of the Group of Friends and urged all stakeholders to work collectively to build synergies between the global architecture and the UN forums, including the HLPF.
In his video message, H.E. Tijjani Mohammad-Bande, the President of the General Assembly, called on all governments to accord education high priority and to ensure that funding is focused, coordinated, and supports national education systems. He underlined that, as we re-build and recover from COVID-19, we must we must mainstream education in our response to mitigate conflict, hunger, poverty and instability which weaken a child’s ability to learn. As we begin the Decade of Action and Delivery to implement the Sustainable Development Goals, Mr. Bande called for a mechanism to analyze the quality and access to education for those furthest behind. To this end, he encouraged the Association for the Development of Education in Africa to collaborate with the Global Education Monitoring Report, the international tool for monitoring global progress on SDG 4, to advance our progress. “This partnership should work towards producing comparative evidence which will equip national policymakers to take action towards our 2030 commitments,” said Mr. Bande.
H.E. Mr. Lazarus Ombai Amayo, Ambassador and Permanent Representative Kenya to the United Nations, co-chair of the Group of Friends for Education and Lifelong Learning, noted that Africa accounts for 35% of the global student population and called on all governments to ensure educational continuity for all students. Echoing Ambassador Juul, Ambassador Amayo called for both regional and global cooperation in achieving education equality for all by adapting the education system to the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized communities.
Speaking as a representative of her country, Hon. Ms. Maria Victoria Angulo Gonzalez, Minister of National Education of Colombia and representative of Colombia on the Steering Committee, introduced her government’s efforts in mitigating the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as improving digital platforms to facilitate students’ e-learning, providing financing support to needy students, developing roadmaps and strategies for delivering digital transformation, as well as promoting emotional and mental health of students and teachers. The importance of financing education was further stressed by Mr. Manos Antoninis, Director of UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report. He warned that COVID-19 may “increase the SDG4 financing gap by up to one/third but investments now could save up to two-thirds of these costs by 2030.”
Mr. Robert Jenkins, UNICEF Global Chief of Education, highlighted “Framework for Reopening Schools” which was proposed jointly by the UNESCO, UNICEF, the World Food Programme and the World Bank as a guiding document to help national and local authorities to reopen schools. He stressed the importance of adhering to the key principles of education equity and inclusiveness as we strive to realize this once-in-a-generation opportunity for all students. This was reinforced by Ms. Haldis Holst, Education International’s Deputy General Secretary, who called on governments to “trust the professionalism of educators and prioritize social dialogue with teachers and unions while ensuring equity as a top priority.”
Similarly, Ms. Rasheda K. Choudhury, Executive Director of Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE) and Representative for the Collective Consultation of NGOs to the SDG-Education 2030 Steering Committee, added her voice to the call for stronger government-civil society cooperation in realizing the right to education for all.
At the conclusion of the event, Ms. Alice Albright, CEO of the Global Partnership for Education emphasized that we prioritize debt restructuring and ensure money is spent in the most efficient way in order to bring resources to the front line. She emphasized how imperative it is for us to invest in the resilience of education. “An educated citizen is the best investment you can have to deal with an uncertain future,” Ms. Albright firmly stated.
Source: UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization