As members of the Vincentian Family, we are well aware of the linkages between education and ending poverty. The United Nations recognizes the connection as well. Today, to celebrate the role education plays in peace and development, it will honor the first UN International Education Day.
“This day is the occasion to reaffirm fundamental principles,” said Audrey Azoulay, Director General of the UN’s Educational Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). “Firstly, education is a human right, a public good and a public responsibility. Secondly, education is the most powerful force in our hands to ensure significant improvements in health, to stimulate economic growth, to unlock the potential and innovation we need to build more resilient and sustainable societies. Lastly, we urgently need to call for collective action for education at global level.”
UNESCO annually releases a Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report. The 2019 report can be viewed by clicking here.
HOW CAN THE VINCENTIAN FAMILY PROMOTE QUALITY EDUCATION?
The number of ways we as Vincentian Family members can promote quality education are endless. The first could be by supporting our existing Vincentian educational institutions. Next, we can consider donating to projects related to education. We can consider helping a student or family with tuition. We can organize an effort to provide materials for school construction. We can organize an effort to collect school supplies. We can support a teacher with his or her training. We can raise funds for computers. We can volunteer to help with literacy or numeracy. There are so many other potential efforts.
According to UNESCO, 750 million youth and adults cannot read or write. 262 million children and youth are currently are out of school globally. One child out of 11 does not attend primary school. And 1 adolescent out of 5 is left out of a secondary education. Other UN statistics reflect that 617 million children and adolescents cannot read and do basic math. 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.
Sustainable Development Goal 4 calls for ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. According to the Sustainable Development Goals Knowledge Platform, greater efforts are needed to improve the quality of education. Disparities in education along the lines of gender, urban-rural location and other dimensions are many, and more investments in education infrastructure are required, particularly in Least Developed Countries (LDCs).
The SDG Knowledge Platform shows that in 2016, 85 percent of primary school teachers worldwide were trained. The proportion was only 71 percent for Southern Asia and 61 percent for Sub-Saharan Africa. Only 34 percent of primary schools in least developed countries had electricity and less than 40 percent were equipped with basic handwashing facilities. The participation rate in early childhood and primary education globally was 70 percent in 2016. The lowest rates were found in Sub-Saharan Africa (41 percent) and Northern Africa and Western Asia (52 percent).
Education is listed in Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That article basically addresses three issues: First, that everyone has the right to education. Second, that it shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Third, it reflects that parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.
NIGERIA LED EFFORT RESOLUTION EFFORT
The UN’s General Assembly on December 3 passed the resolution to adopt January 24 as International Day of Education. Nigeria took the lead in promoting the resolution, which was co-sponsored by the Permanent Missions of Ireland, Qatar, and Singapore to the UN, as well as UNESCO, UNICEF, UN Women, and others.
There exists International Literacy Day, in September, and World Teacher’s Day in October. But this is the UN’s first day dedicated to education in general.