Leaders from the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) convened in the Lao Peoples’ Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) capital, Vientiane, in September 2016, to endorse the organisation’s formal Declaration on Strengthening Education for Out of School Children and Youth.
Across the ASEAN member states of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam there are millions of school-age children with no access to primary education.
The Declaration is the outcome of UNESCO’s support to the ASEAN Secretariat and to the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organisation (SEAMEO) since 2015. In tandem, UNESCO’s unique regional initiative was bolstered by Educate A Child (EAC) whose example, mission and partnership helped to create the space for additional political consensus, planning and the implementation of interventions. EAC Executive Director Dr Mary Joy Pigozzi said, “This is an enormously significant feat on the part of ASEAN member countries, and of course our UNESCO partner, that demonstrates a true commitment to ensuring access to primary education now and for future generations of the region’s children”.
On a regional level, EAC has been deeply engaged during this period and directly supported the enrolment and retention of more than 175,000 out of school children (OOSC) through different partnerships with UNESCO (in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand), Aide et Action, the Monastic Education Development Group, Save the Children, UNHCR and United World Schools.
With EAC’s support, UNESCO advocated for and organised technical meetings in 2015 and 2016 that laid the foundation for this broader regional commitment to increase education access to ASEAN’s OOSC. In 2017, EAC and UNESCO continued to support the will and aims of ASEAN countries to develop action plans that transform the leadership pledges into realities for the region’s dispossessed children.
As a result, concrete plans with respect to OOSC will be integrated into the national education strategies of the respective governments. In addition, UNESCO, in collaboration with UNICEF, is supporting ASEAN to sustain this initiative through the design of a follow-on programme to buttress member countries’ efforts to redress the OOSC phenomena. EAC’s support and engagement over the years is reaping huge benefits for OOSC and their access to education now and in the future.
IMAGE CREDIT: Wasinee Noppakunthong