By: Fatuma Omar Ismail, SRP alumnus
Canadians understand the transformative role of education in a young person’s life. That’s why Canada has been a donor to the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) – the only global fund solely dedicated to education in developing countries – since 2007.
Canada recently hosted the Board of Directors of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) in Ottawa from June 5 to 7. The Canadian International Education Policy Working Group (CIEPWG) – a group of Canadian non-profit organizations working to improve access to and quality of education in developing countries – was there to advocate for an increase in Canadian spending on global education efforts. They convened diverse stakeholders and promoted sharing and exchange through a series of side events and workshops.
I was honoured to have been invited by WUSC to participate in a youth delegation hosted by CIEPWG at these events. Through this opportunity, I met and worked with other brilliant and passionate young minds from all over Canada and around the world. Together, we identified what we as youth can do to advance global education, especially among youth and children in protracted crises.
Today, 263 million children and youth are out of school, half of them girls. Seventy-five million of these children are living in fragile and conflict-affected places.
These numbers hit close to home for me. Growing up in a refugee camp, I know that the majority of the children and youth, myself included, saw education as our ticket to a better life. However, not everyone was able to realize that dream due to limited access to quality education.
On June 6, I, along with other members of the youth delegation, shared our experiences with participants of the CIEPWG side events. During a roundtable discussion, we presented a number of key considerations on education in protracted crises. Some of our key considerations included:
- Improving and increasing access to, quality of, and accountability for education in protracted crisis, including for particularly marginalized youth such as students living with disabilities.
- The need for education systems to assess the gender-responsiveness of their curriculum and train teachers on the provision of gender-responsive education.
During an event on June 7 , attended by stakeholders, policy makers, and experts in the field, we expressed our wish to see all governments – including Canada – make specific commitments to the achievement of the fourth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG). SDG 4 ensures inclusive, safe, quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all.
In order to achieve this ambitious goal, we made a number of calls to action, including:
- A call upon G7 leaders to make global education a priority theme for the upcoming G7 Summit, hosted here in Canada in 2018.
- A call on governments, including donors and developing country partners, the GPE, and Canadian and international NGOs to create meaningful opportunities for youth participation and representation, such as organizing a simultaneous ‘Y7’ or Youth Summit to the G7 Summit to provide platform for youth participation in policy-making.
- A call on all donor governments, including Canada, to commit spending a minimum of 15% of their international development assistance on education, in line with the Education Financing Commission Report.
- An appreciation for Canada’s commitment to a feminist international assistance policy that supports the empowerment and rights of women and girls. As part of that commitment, we urged Canada to scale up investment in girls’ education through continued and increased programming in intersectional gender-responsive education sector plans. Educating women and girls can leverage Canada’s recent investment in Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and is key to achieving all of the SDGs.
By the end of the three days, I had learned a lot and was inspired by the many people I met. I believe education is a basic human right. I also believe it is the only sure way to overcome today’s global challenges, including poverty and instability. It is the responsibility of each and every one of us to contribute to the achievement and fulfilment of that right, and youth will play a fundamental role in doing so.