Keynote address –  Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary General, UN

Dear Amina, you are one of the most powerful women in the world, but for us, in our hearts, the one to fight for education in Africa for many years. We got to know you when Nigeria coalition was formed, and we are very proud that you were the member of our campaign. You were appointed the UN Deputy Secretary General in Jan 2017 by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. You were Minister of Environment of the Federal Republic of Nigeria from Nov 2015 to Dec 2017, where you really steered your country’s efforts on climate action, protecting environment and conserving resources for sustainable development. Prior to which you served as a special advisor to Sec. Gen. Ban Ki-moon on 2015 development planning and you were very instrumental in bringing about 2030 agenda for sustainable development including the SDGs.

Thank you, Monique. I am just a development worker, mother of six, now a grandmother! It’s great to see all these women on the podium. And I have to give a shout-out to all the friends I see around here. It’s great to be home here and thank you for having me.

It is a sincere pleasure to join you all for what is an important 6th WA of GCE and I thank the people and the government for their warm welcome and support. Also, the commitment that we heard from Hon. Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali offering his unwavering commitment to the right to education – the laws that they have passed and the effort they are making sure that everyone is included. In recent years, against tough economic hurdles, has significantly advanced the provision of universal primary education and ensured that children can continue their education in post-conflicts and post-disaster situations, and has increased literacy rate in the population and modernised the teachers’ professional development. Let me also stress how much I welcome the work of GCE. We have of course crossed paths often. In my current capacity in trying to support the operationalisation of SDGs, education plays a key role, and is an agenda docking station – without which, none of the other goals can happen.

Pleasure to be with you again. The theme of the assembly is really apt for the times now, so that we are speaking about 2030 agenda for SD to really transform the world, and what does it mean across universal agenda. Today the world’s pursuit for SDG faces deep tensions and contradictions. Globalisation has brought remarkable gains and has brought very many people out of poverty. Yet, we are keenly aware that the benefits are yet to reach all. Indeed, the patterns and pressures with globalisation are aggravating environmental concerns and fueling climate change. It is also not a very just globalisation: while poverty has declined, inequality is on the rise. In an increasingly interconnected world, intolerance, discrimination continue to drive people apart. The 2030 agenda is our universal response to ensure we address these challenges and achieving the 2030 SDGs. The world truly needs no one left behind.

 

“Our aspirations are clear: Equitable inclusive access to lifelong quality education for all, ensuring that people, especially, women and children that match the 21st century global and local marketplaces. Enabling people with knowledge and competency to participate in socio-economic, political and civic life. Empowering and educating our educators and teachers and strengthening public education system including with adequate means of implementation.”

 

Education is continuously talked about being indispensable to achieve all of the goals. Our aspirations are clear: equitable inclusive access to lifelong quality education for all, ensuring that people, especially, women and children that match the 21st century global and local marketplaces. Enabling people with knowledge and competency to participate in socio-economic, political and civic life. Empowering and educating our educators and teachers and strengthening public education system including with adequate means of implementation. The education 2030 framework for achieving the SDG enshrines collective commitments feeding into all 16 goals.

Now the real challenge is to deliver. Ensuring that the means of implementation are there will be crucial. It does need a whole of society approach that we have to take while tailoring to the specific needs of countries. Today, context is challenging. Many of the issues we face within country are cross border, the externalities of which have nothing to do with the impact it has on our countries. It does mean building and fortifying necessary institutions keeping with the SDG 16. If we are to reach everyone, the institutions will be important, and capacity and the strength to do it. It means a strong global partnership for development. In goal 17, we are increasingly asking to define that and deepen and bring expertise and investment we need. We are 3 years along in the path of implementation, where do we stand in our efforts to transformation that the 2030 agenda brings to us?

 

While there has been some progress, we still continue to have a long way to go. Nepal just recently 260000 children back into education, but I am sure they are still grappling with quality trying to answer questions of value about education. What is coming out of the VNRs at high level political forum is that there is so much more to do as many countries have participated. Despite remarkable improvements in literacy and narrowing of gender gap, still 750 million adults, ⅔ of whom are women remain non-literate in 2016. Out of school rates and numbers have fallen, but again, they are not low enough. In 2016, 260 million children and adolescents – 1 in every 5 were out of school. Millions of children and adolescents who are in school are not acquiring the minimum skills owing to overcrowded classroom, inadequately trained teachers and then comes the student dropout. Education doesn’t deliver the returns families and societies expect.

 

Improving the working conditions of the educators is important to attract best candidates and teachers. And I remember that we have continued to say for the last 2 decades, “who wants to be a teacher?” and not many people raise their hands. Sufficient equitable funding for education sectors is still a problem in many countries. Households, in particular low-income communities bear a disproportionate share of cost of education. We continue to see the most poor and marginalised denied the right to free primary and secondary education.

 

The scale of this, of course, is huge. To achieve the sustainable development goal for education, we need to scale up from 1.3 trillion to 3 trillion annually by 2030. The international community must be willing to help to address these short falls. Even the countries with most optimal efforts to improve tax base and increase spending on education and value for money, the funding gap still persists and will continue to rise.

 

Transformation is also recognising that education should not be seen as a standalone goal, it plays a key goal in other goals. Our goals 17 are being common. The investment needed to be inclusive, and the revenues we get from that pay for SDG 1-6. All this will not stand till we have 16 and 17 strengthened to carry the lot. We know education should increase productivity of individuals and strengthens their potential for economic growth. And it helps to eradicate poverty and hunger and contributes to improved health. We have heard how it promotes gender equality and instill values and mindsets and enable people to be agents for sustainable development but also help form peaceful societies. The rule of law and respect for human rights is central to our education systems. So, education is a powerful catalyst, but this can only happen if it is successful and equitable. We have to make special efforts to ensure that all children, regardless of family income, gender, ethnicity, wherever they are, disability should benefit.

“For education to be transformation, education itself must be transformed.”

 

For education to be transformation, education itself must be transformed. We need to embrace broad view as collective social endeavours. This is particularly true in a time when education systems are focusing on measurable learning outcomes. Performance market-driven aspirations and competition. This narrows on ambitious vision for the purpose of education and our efforts to strengthen social responses to sustainability. As UNESCO recently stressed, sustainably enhancing the dignity and capacity and the wealth of the human person in relation to others and to nature should be the fundamental purpose of education in 21st century.

 

“…sustainably enhancing the dignity and capacity and the wealth of the human person in relation to others and to nature should be the fundamental purpose of education in 21st century.”

 

We need to strengthen our support for education as a public good, and human right. This is particularly true with the rise of privatisation. Transformative education can only be achieved when we all shoulder our responsibilities. It requires neutral transparent public accountability for our efforts to ensure right to education and empowerment of all individuals and communities. We need to focus greater efforts for educating girls child, who still faces too many obstacles including the distance to schools, adequate sanitation facilitation, harassment. We know that educating girls has important consequences for global poverty reduction. Each additional year of school increases the girl’s future earning power by 20%, decreasing the likelihood of early marriage and death in childbirth, decreasing the pay gap and has long consequence for next generation. Educated women are more likely to send their own children to school, helping to stop the cycle of poverty in family from one generation to another.

 

The spirit of transformation must also extend to the realm of partnerships. Global cooperation will be crucial for promoting innovation, mobilising necessary resources, disseminate education technology and best practices. Local authorities should also be empowered to contribute. They need knowledge of their communities and the respect with which many are held is a critical ingredient for relevant education to take root. Today, Nepal has many challenges as it moves to a much more stable govt and it takes its federal level down to local governments. The capacity of the local governments to deliver on the important primary education will need partnerships to make it succeed.

 

Civil Society has always had a critical role and continues to have one. This is recognised in 2030 education frameworks, which underscores that CSOs need to be engaged and involved in all stages from planning to M&E, with their participation nationalised and guaranteed.  But I would also say that that requires the inclusion of young people. I was happy to meet with the group participating in GCE. they may have One voice. I would suggest that in the same way that we try to lift women’s participation in every sphere of our lives, we do so you with youth and we are ambitious about it. That we are not talking about future tomorrow, but the participant of their future today.

 

The right to quality education and learning throughout life requires ambitious strategic approaches and policy measures to make our education system more active and inclusive. World deliberations here are timely as we prepare for High Level Political Forum in 2019, that reviews what we have done so far in our journey towards achieving the SDGs. Our next year’s theme – empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality will review our quest for universal education as a part of our collective responsibility for fairer and more just world for all.

 

“I really haven’t seen much change in the speech I read [in Dakar] and [the one I am] reading today… What is it that over the last 20 years that we haven’t been able to do to move the needle in the direction that we need to.”

 

In conclusion, as I read through this speech, and I think back for when I was first engaged with education as we signed to Dakar’s EFA, I really haven’t seen much change in the speech I read then and reading today. And so, the real challenge, I think, is that we really need some reflection. What is it that over the last 20 years that we haven’t been able to do to move the needle in the direction that we need to. We are not catching up with education that is needed for people that we have today. And this gives us great concern. We have many institutions, lots of commitment passion and expertise, analysis but it is not yet coming together to move at a scale and manner we need it to. At the UN, what we have recognised as we came into office in 2017, was that we are certainly not fit for purpose to lift the new SD agenda. For that we are putting in reforms that we see the transformation. Not in HQ of UN in NY, but in countries like Nepal, in our country teams, led by a resident coordinator, that can bring the assets, not just of the UN, but the partnerships in our countries behind govt. To make those moves happen.

 

We had reforms before, how will this be different. I think most of it is because we are in positions where we have a SG that is, we say, he is our no 1 feminist because he is walking the talk. Left and right of him is a woman, he has Gender parity in his management group, we are achieving that all RCs in our countries – in 129 countries we have gender parity. He is trying to walk that talk, but it requires much more. Because what we want to go goes beyond UN, it is coalitions beyond GCE, your individual NGOs that need to help us lift it at country level. But most importantly, it’s about governments. What is the new narrative we need so we can move them to actions that we need to educate for real. Investing in systems. Actually taking time to investing in economy and we need to have infrastructure, but we need have to have education, access to health. Really taking on the essence of the SDGs, but we are not asking for pieces of development, we are asking for the whole of it. We are not asking for education as something we add on and that we meet every few years only to read the same speech.

 

“Education is not in a bad place; it is in crisis… Let’s admit that”

Something different has to happen. So here, my challenge is to the young people. Try to be as disruptive as you can the next couple of days and change the narrative. Get the education that is a right for everyone. It is complex. Let us remember that this is about a journey. We lost a generation. Let’s make a new vision. Education is not in a bad place. It is in crisis. We have qualified illiterates. Let’s admit that they go to school, we Give them certificates and they do not have the skills to join the marketplace. Let’s admit that. It is the beginning of trying to address not only who needs to be educated going forward but also what to do with millions of educated that also cannot join the marketplace?

 

“Be challenged, be courageous. Be what we were when we were youth – we were certainly not sitting down asking to be invited in.”

 

This is serious. I went to school in a corner of Nigeria that today birthed Boko haram. The children that kidnap the girls who are in school all were having education. What went wrong? That we were able to see the part of the country that I went to school and I stand here as Deputy Secretary General. What went wrong? Exclusion, injustice – these are all real ingredients for creating perfect storms of economies and countries that are not so peaceful. So be challenged, be courageous. Be what we were when we were youth and we were certainly not sitting down asking to be invited in. It is probably not what the Deputy Secretary General of the UN should be saying to you, but we are concerned. And we have the Secretary General opening up the space to say transformation means action. Collaborative action.

 

“We can’t do without education, without youth voices and without the disruptive behavior, to bring back the things that we can do and the way in which we include everyone and sincerely we do leave absolutely no one behind.”

 

We can’t continue to just keep quiet about it. Because today, the world is looking inwards, not outwards. So many of the issues are beyond our borders. The Conflicts we have, in every single case, we could have prevented. And in every single case, we can find peace. We can’t do without education, without youth voices and without the disruptive behavior, to bring back the things that we can do and the way in which we include everyone and sincerely we do leave absolutely no one behind.

 

Thank you for having me here.



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