Education coalitions in the Arab region fight for the right to education

This blog is also available on the GPE website.

During this year’s Global Action Week for Education, civil society groups around the Middle East and North Africa led many different activities to promote the right to education, in particular for populations affected by conflict and crises.

The Global Action Week for Education is since 2003 a crucial moment in the global civil society calendar.  Convened by the Global Campaign for Education, each year, members around the world of local and international NGOs come together, under one umbrella, to raise global education demands that ensure Governments play their part in implementing quality public education for all.

This year is no different. The Global Action Week for Education 2019, under the slogan “My Education, My Right(s)” once again united civil society organisations, trade unions, local and regional partners and to ensure the timely delivery of free quality education for all, as well as call for tangible steps to monitor and implement the Sustainable Development Goal 4.

In the Middle East and North Africa region, the event could not be more timely. “Making the right to an inclusive, equitable, quality, free public education a reality” is a theme that encompasses several focus areas of GCE’s Strategic Plan, and most critically,  the right to education in emergencies and conflict areas. While significant steps have been taken towards safeguarding children, teachers, and schools in the MENA region, access to education remains a challenge and the quality of education is negatively impacting generations of youth in these countries.  According to UNICEF:

  • The number of out-of-school children in MENA has declined from 15 million in 2008 to 12.3m in 2015 – however, despite the improvement, these figures do not capture children who have been forced out of school by the crisis in Syria and Iraq.
  • 6.2 million children are in basic education but at risk of dropping out.
  • In total, MENA has nearly 22 million children who are either out of school or at risk of dropping out.

Political instability combined with prolonged humanitarian crises characterise the fragile learning environment and emergency context under which civil society in these countries operates. Yet, organisations and individuals committed to the realisation of education for all, remain steadfast to change this scenario and ensure a positive future for children – the future leaders of the MENA region.

Leaving no one behind

The #GAWE2019 was an opportunity for us to raise the profile of these complex issues. We know that increasing access to education cannot be achieved without adequately responding to the social and cultural context where children, youth and adults live and learn, particularly in conflict and disaster settings.

GCE members in the Middle East and North Africa region are joining the global actions, celebrating under the “My Education, My Right(s)”. Here are activities that took place in the different countries:

Jordan: a workshop for parliamentarians

Amongst the few activities planned, the Jordanian National Coalition for EFA conducted a workshop on “The role of parliamentarians in realising and promoting the right to education from the perspective of SDG 4”, addressing topics like acquiring skills to integrate sustainable development objectives into parliamentary work and to analyse reports on education by supervision and legislation; or preparing for the national conference on the role of parliamentarians in implementing SDG 4.

Additionally, the coalition developed a specialised workshop on SDG 4 for members from the teachers’ union.

Palestine: “Education is my right, my dignity, my freedom, my identity and it is my narrative!”

The Palestinian Coalition for Education for All hosted a press conference in cooperation with the Ministry of Education to present the results of the Palestinian curriculum analysis, and launching the GAWE 2019.

An event called “The Big Day” was held in public schools within West Bank in cooperation with Ministry of Education to talk about the right to education for all and SDG 4.

Other activities involved a presentation of a film on the right to education and a discussion session with UNRWA schools, a workshop that discussed vocational education in terms of theory and practice, and two seminars on the right of refugees in education and the role of civil society to ensure no one is left behind and on safe education.

Youth also had a strong place in this year’s activity, with the organization of a youth accountability workshop for decision-makers on their involvement in education policy-making.

Yemen: involving the highest level of government

YEMEN Coalition for EFA met with the Prime Minister to raise the importance of committing to achieve SDG 4 in a country experiencing the worst humanitarian crisis in the region, with as many as 2 million children left out of school. To showcase the extent of this catastrophe and discuss solutions, the coalition used the power of media to introduce to the public the content of SDG 4 and the importance of achieving it.

Other events included a meeting with the parliament to put pressure on issuing legislations to ensure the achievement of SDG 4; an exhibition for students in some schools to show the role of science and education in the advancement of community; and delivering awareness-raising lectures in universities, schools and public places on the concept and purpose of SDG 4.

YCEA also launched a hashtag (#goodeducationisrightforme) alongside the global slogan (My Education, My Right(s)) on social media to amplify its campaigning activities.

Lebanon: bringing stakeholders together

The Arab Network for Popular Education coalition organized a big event on April 30 in the Municipality of Saida with all the Lebanese Coalition’s member organizations, the Ministry of Education, teachers’ unions and UNESCO.

Success stories from learners were read, including those with disabilities, as well as women from marginalised communities. View photos and videos from the event.

Additionally, a visit to the Syrian and Palestinians refugee camps took place: schools and adult education centers were visited to show solidarity. Today these camps represent more than 40% of the population in Lebanon.

Egypt: meetings and field visits

The Egyptian Coalition for EFA organised a roundtable discussion with representatives from the Ministry of Education, directors of the strategic planning department and directors of the community participation department in five governorates to discuss how far they’ve come in reaching SDG 4 and the accountability of the State regarding building democratic systems.

#GAWE2019 actions were disseminated through social media platforms to raise awareness on the role of citizens, activists and the government in implementing SDG 4.

The coalition and partners organised field visits to schools to discuss strengthening public systems and state capacities to ensure that education is free, fair and equitable.

The following messages were shared during #GAWE2019  as relates to education in emergencies:

 

By Rawan Bassam Ayyash (ACEA)/ Palestine

Rawan Bassam Ayyash, is a Secretary Member in the Arab Campaign for Education for All (ACEA). She is a youth advocate for the right to education in the Middle East, she has engaged in regional and national education advocacy. She was one of the ad Hoc committee of the first ever youth caucus in GCE/2018 that aims to ensure an effective youth engagement in decision making process within GCE. She is now representing the Middle East youth in the global group to from a youth movement.



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