On December 4th, 2018, World Solidarity Forum organized and event on the topic: “The Right to Education: How Can We Improve It? “
The event coordinator of the World Solidarity Forum, Alix Maréchal, greeted the speakers and the guests. She pointed out how important education is outlining the relevance of truly understanding the real reach of working for Human Rights.
The event started with Henry Martin who works as a researcher at International Education on projects focused on education linking refugees and teachers. To Mr. Martin, working to render real this right is a key step for developing a sustainable future and tested way to advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
SDG4 seeks to guarantee a quality education base on access to primary education. Sadly, many are still left outside of the systems’ reach. Mr. Martin, highlighted that the main problem is increasingly being identified in a shortage of teachers in many western countries. Sweden will suffer a deficit of over sixty thousand in the next two days while the Netherlands already struggles to keep many schools open full time 5 days a week. A UK survey recently indicated that 69% of youths were not interested in pursuing a teaching career depriving a crucial profession of the needed manpower for the future.
The strength of the identity as teachers is also decaying with most of education laws being drafted by policymakers foreign to the difficulties of those actually working in education. In Malawi, a positive social dialogue emerged out of an initial confrontation between teachers and government. Now, both parties work in better aligning official standards to the reality of education. The presentation also drew attention to the fact that the education of teachers is usually forgotten aspect of the system and where more investments are increasingly needed. Some countries, like Singapore or Finland, make of teaching teachers a core pillar of the system. This becomes problematic when students suffer from mental health issues that leave ill-prepared teachers unable of successfully approaching these matters. In the meantime, international education funding is going down with pensions becoming a more pressing political issue than longer-term programs such as teaching. More work has to be done to keep education as a priority for all.
The second speaker, Louma Albik, is the founder and chair of Soutien Belge Overseas (SB Overseas). Ms. Albik is originally from Aleppo and moved to Belgium in 2000. She founded SB overseas to provide help to assist countries neighboring Syria. These are nations that have seen a massive influx of refugees which dwarves the size of what has been seen in Europe. Ms. Albik decided to focus on Lebanon as the situation there has gradually become critical after the beginning of the War. One out of three people living currently in Lebanon is a refugee. This has overwhelmed the public services leaving most refugees without support or with very limited lifelines. These are the reasons why she decided to set up a program to help the so-called “lost generation of Syria”.
The program helps children that lack access to public education by providing adapted classes helping them to mitigate possible deficiencies in schooling provoked by the years of war. SB Overseas has already established three non-formal schools in Lebanon, where they run core programs for refugee children focused on assisting them in their preparation for the entry tests needed for entering public education system. SB Overseas has also dedicated energies to running a series of ‘catch-up’ education programs for older teenagers who, because of being over the age of compulsory education, suffer from limited access to formal schooling.
SB Overseas is also heavily invested in offering literacy programs for younger and older refugee women as a way to provide means for the transition into their new reality. She highlighted that female education is a key aspect of any kind of crisis recovery especially in a conflict context where the social fabric has been damaged. In a situation where women can hardly provide for the families, crisis can be instrumentalized to help them become actors of positive change helping to rebuild their environments from a more solid and inclusive position.
We thank the participants and the speakers for this great evening. The right to education should not be understood only as a right but also as a crucial element for development, inclusion and peace-building. Allowing entire generations to acquire the tools to regain control of their lives is a duty where all relevant actors need to be involved.