19-21 November 2019 in Doha, Qatar marked the occasion of the biennial World Innovation Summit on Education (WISE) under the thematic rubric of ‘UnLearn, ReLearn: What it means to be Human’. The Summit, offers a prime opportunity for education stakeholders to treat the most salient issues facing education as a global community. “WISE is always such a great moment for EAC, EAA and the education community writ large. One can hardly think of a more conducive environment for people who see education as the passport to the future to link together, compare notes and innovate our way towards the future”, remarked Dr Mary Joy Pigozzi, Executive Director of Educate A Child, a global programme of the Education Above All Foundation.
To that end, some of the urgent challenges and noteworthy trends in education taken up this year were: integrating and leveraging technology for positive learning outcomes; harnessing collective intelligence; well-being; understanding our brain; and lifelong learning for teachers – all with the aim of exploring what defines our humanity in an age of unprecedented technological advancement. Against this impressive backdrop of proceedings, EAC played an active part in the Summit, firmly focussing attention on out of school children (OOSC) at the primary level and the impact of migration and displacement on education in the MENA region.
Amid a beehive of activity in the WISE Village on 20 November, EAC hosted a panel session, “The High Hanging Fruit – Lessons from EAC Partner Projects” that highlighted effective practices in monitoring and evaluation and data collection, as they pertain to OOSC and nuanced policymaking. Reflecting realities on the ground in EAC project countries, such as Bangladesh, Cambodia and India, this panel discussion attempted to cast a spotlight on innovative strategies that help meet the challenges of tracking OOSC in their journey through primary education. This discussion featured contributions from: Safeena Husain, Founder and Executive Director, Educate Girls; Shahidul Islam, Head of Education Programmes, Dhaka Ahsania Mission; Savy Lach, Regional Director of Southeast Asia, Aide Et Action; Silvia Montoya, Director, UNESCO Institute of Statistics; Mark Roland, Programme Director, Results for Development; and Caitlyn Sparks, Education Programme Assistant, UNESCO Office for the Gulf States and Yemen.
The following day, 21 November, EAC took centre stage, as its bold new strategy to partner with countries that have a demonstrated commitment to the realisation of universal primary education (UPE) and running #TheLastMile was unveiled during the main plenary session “ZERO Out of School Children.” The ZERO OOSC plenary emphasised the criticality of mobilising on a global level and acting in concert to reach those relatively small, but persistent pockets of OOSC whose right to education remains unfulfilled. Addressing WISE participants in a keynote speech, Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser asserted: “In order to innovate new solutions to the challenges like monitoring, among others, Education Above All is launching a new strategy to be implemented in selected countries, with the aim of ensuring the number of out of school children in these countries reaches zero. Through doing this, we can prove that nothing is impossible if we all determine that education truly is above all.” In addition, to help raise to the fore this matter and galvanise attendees and the global public audience alike, Shakira Mebarak, a plenary session keynote added: “Most of you may know me as an artist, as an entertainer and that’s indeed my calling and what I’ve been doing since I was 13 years old. But, I never would have imagined when I started out that my work as an artist would end up being the vehicle for me to serve my greater purpose in life of working towards eradicating poverty through the power of education.”
Moreover, the ZERO OOSC plenary featured another keynote address by the First Lady of the Republic of Paraguay Silvana López Moreira and high-level commentary from Graça Machel, SDG Advocate; Dr Jaime Saavedra, Global Director, Education Global Practice, World Bank Group; Michael Pollack, US Board Chair, Educate Girls; Stephen Katende, former Project Fellow, Building Tomorrow; Alanoud Al Kuwari, Youth Advocate, Education Above All Foundation together with the plenary moderator, Folly Bah Thibault, Journalist, Al Jazeera offered closing remarks.
Building on the momentum from the charged atmosphere of the ZERO OOSC plenary session, EAC continued onward that day with UNESCO to co-host the launch, of the “Arab States 2019 Global Education Migration (GEM) Report: Migration, displacement and education: Building bridges, not walls.” With an assembled panel of experts, this discussion concentrated on how education is shaping internal and regional migration dynamics and the practical steps that can be taken to eliminate the barriers that refugees and other migrants encounter regarding access. The panel to launch the new GEM Report comprised: Farida Aboudan, Education Specialist, EAC; Dr Manos Antoninis, GEM Director, UNESCO; Zahra Babar, Associate Director for Research at CIRS, Georgetown University in Qatar; Folly Bah Thibault, Journalist, Al Jazeera; Saad Ibrahim, Director General of Vocational Education at the Ministry of Education, Republic of Iraq; and Khaled Khalifa, Regional Representative to the Gulf Cooperation Council Countries, UNHCR.
As EAC continues to enrol OOSC around the world, the following EAC-related agreements were also signed during WISE:
Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)
- IDB-EAA will provide matched financing in support of At-Risk students and OOSC across South America and the Caribbean. It is expected that Paraguay will be the first country to benefit from this new partnership. The Paraguay Ministry of Education and Culture will receive new school infrastructure and curriculum support to align its Extended School Day Policy with keeping At-Risk students in school and community based initiatives will aim to encourage OOSC to re-engage with the formal school system.
Fundación Pies Descalzos (Barefoot Foundation)
- EAA-EAC and Fundación Pies Descalzos are seeking to enrol 34,000 OOSC and support 20,000 At-Risk students in Colombia to stay in school through interventions that include community mobilisation and engagement; school construction; student assistance in transportation, school meals and learning supplies; psycho-social support; and teacher/administrator training. The project will be implemented in close coordination with several regional governments and the Ministry of National Education in the Republic of Colombia.
- The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation is providing US$1 million towards the UNESCO/EAA/EAC partnership in Iraq. The project entitled “improving access to quality and inclusive education with gender equality for out of school children in Iraq”, expects to enrol 150,000 children over three and a half years.
In sum, this summit brought together a formidable array of education stakeholders, development actors, eminent personalities, teachers and students to call attention to the changing nature of the education landscape in the 21st Century and the imperatives of awareness and responsible action. Within such a space, EAC will always highlight the challenges of the world’s most vulnerable children, their right to primary education and demonstrate how a growing community of people who care, can work together to support those hardest-to-reach and build their lives by effecting positive and lasting change.