Education coalitions in the Arab region fight for the right to education

During this year’s Global Action Week for Education, civil society groups around the Middle East and North Africa led many different activities to promote the right to education, in particular for populations affected by conflict and crises.

May 03, 2019 by Rawan Bassam Ayyash, Arab Campaign for Education for All (ACEA)
5 minutes read
Girls from a public school in Gaza during the Big Day activity
We all have the right to education regardless race, religion, gender, disability, or the financial status. On this photo, girls from a public school in Gaza participate in Global Action Week for Education activities.
Credit: ACEA

The Global Action Week for Education is a crucial moment in the global civil society calendar. Each year, worldwide, members of local and international NGOs come together, under one umbrella, to raise global education demands that ensure governments play their part in implementing quality public education for all.

This year is no different. The Global Action Week for Education 2019, under the slogan “My Education, My Right(s)" once again united civil society organizations, trade unions, local and regional partners and ensure the timely delivery of free quality education for all, as well as called for tangible steps to monitor and implement the Sustainable Development Goal 4.

In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, the event could not have been more timely. “Making the right to an inclusive, equitable, quality, free public education a reality” was a theme that encompasses several focus areas of GCE’s Strategic Plan, and most critically, the right to education in emergencies and conflict areas.

While significant steps have been taken towards safeguarding children, teachers, and schools in the MENA region, access to education remains a challenge and the quality of education is negatively impacting generations of youth in these countries. According to UNICEF:

  • The number of out-of-school children in MENA has declined from 15 million in 2008 to 12.3m in 2015 - however, despite the improvement, these figures do not capture children who have been forced out of school by the crises in Syria and Iraq.
  • 6.2 million children are in basic education but at risk of dropping out.
  • In total, MENA has nearly 22 million children who are either out of school or at risk of dropping out.

Political instability combined with prolonged humanitarian crises characterize the fragile learning environment and emergency context under which civil society in these countries operates. Yet, organizations and individuals committed to achieving education for all remain steadfast to change this scenario and ensure a positive future for children - the future leaders of the MENA region.

Leaving no one behind

The #GAWE2019 was an opportunity for us to raise the profile of these complex issues. We know that increasing access to education cannot be achieved without adequately responding to the social and cultural context where children, youth and adults live and learn, particularly in conflict and disaster settings.


Now is the time for governments and partners to rise up to the challenge of safeguarding and investing in children and youth in MENA and ensure a prosperous future for the region.

GCE members in the Middle East and North Africa region joined the global actions, celebrating under the “My Education, My Right(s)”. Here are activities that took place in the different countries:

Image from Press conference in Gaza launching GAWE2019. Credit: GCE
Image from Press conference in Gaza launching GAWE2019.

Jordan: a workshop for parliamentarians

Amongst the few activities planned, the Jordanian National Coalition for EFA conducted a workshop on "The role of parliamentarians in realizing and promoting the right to education from the perspective of SDG 4”, addressing topics like acquiring skills to integrate sustainable development objectives into parliamentary work and to analyze reports on education by supervision and legislation; or preparing for the national conference on the role of parliamentarians in implementing SDG 4.

Additionally, the coalition developed a specialized workshop on SDG 4 for members from the teachers’ union.

Image from Press conference in Gaza launching GAWE2019. Credit: GCE
Image from Press conference in Gaza launching GAWE2019.

Palestine: "Education is my right, my dignity, my freedom, my identity and it is my narrative!”

The Palestinian Coalition for Education for All hosted a press conference in cooperation with the Ministry of Education to present the results of the Palestinian curriculum analysis, and launching the GAWE 2019.

An event called "The Big Day" was held in public schools within West Bank in cooperation with Ministry of Education to talk about the right to education for all and SDG 4.

Other activities involved a presentation of a film on the right to education and a discussion session with UNRWA schools, a workshop that discussed vocational education in terms of theory and practice, and two seminars on the right of refugees in education and the role of civil society to ensure no one is left behind and on safe education.

Youth also had a strong place in this year’s activity, with the organization of a youth accountability workshop for decision-makers on their involvement in education policy-making.

Yemen: involving the highest level of government

The YEMEN Coalition for EFA met with the Prime Minister to raise the importance of committing to achieve SDG 4 in a country experiencing the worst humanitarian crisis in the region, with as many as 2 million children left out of school. To showcase the extent of this catastrophe and discuss solutions, the coalition used the power of media to introduce to the public the content of SDG 4 and the importance of achieving it.

Other events included a meeting with the parliament to put pressure on issuing legislations to ensure the achievement of SDG 4; an exhibition for students in some schools to show the role of science and education in the advancement of community; and delivering awareness-raising lectures in universities, schools and public places on the concept and purpose of SDG 4.

YCEA also launched a hashtag (#goodeducationisrightforme) alongside the global slogan (My Education, My Right(s)) on social media to amplify its campaigning activities.

Lebanon: bringing stakeholders together

The Arab Network for Popular Education coalition organized a big event on April 30 in the Municipality of Saida with all the Lebanese Coalition's member organizations, the Ministry of Education, teachers’ unions and UNESCO.

Success stories from learners were read, including those with disabilities, as well as women from marginalized communities. View photos and videos from the event.

Additionally, a visit to the Syrian and Palestinians refugee camps took place: schools and adult education centers were visited to show solidarity. Today these camps represent more than 40% of the population in Lebanon.

GAWE 2019 was an opportunity to raise the flag on the importance of education especially for those impacted by conflict.

Egypt: meetings and field visits

The Egyptian Coalition for EFA organized a roundtable discussion with representatives from the Ministry of Education, directors of the strategic planning department and directors of the community participation department in five governorates to discuss how far they’ve come in reaching SDG 4 and the accountability of the State regarding building democratic systems.

#GAWE2019 actions were disseminated through social media platforms to raise awareness on the role of citizens, activists and the government in implementing SDG 4.

The coalition and partners organized field visits to schools to discuss strengthening public systems and state capacities to ensure that education is free, fair and equitable.

The right to education is universal and can’t be obstructed in crisis and natural disasters/ACEA- Palestine- Marathon
The right to education is universal and can’t be obstructed in crisis and natural disasters / ACEA- Palestine- Marathon
ACEA- Palestine- Marathon
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