How civil society pushes the SDG 4 agenda forward at global, regional and national levels

Learn more about the several exchanges and meetings which are taking place to identify common challenges and opportunities for civil society in achieving SDG 4.

November 05, 2019 by Mame Codou Dieng Cisse, ANCEFA, Wolfgang Leumer, Global Campaign for Education, and Julia Sestier, Global Campaign for Education
6 minutes read
Credit: GCE - Inter-regional meeting in South Africa
GCE - Inter-regional meeting in South Africa

The Asia South Pacific Association for Basic and Adult Education (ASPBAE) also contributed to this blog.

Across the Movement, focuses and priorities may vary according to regional and national contexts, and regional and inter-regional meetings are an opportunity to identify common areas of strategic focus and to learn from each other’s context-specific priorities and expertise. 

It has been a busy few past months for the Global Campaign for Education (GCE) as two of our Civil Society Education Fund (CSEF) and member regional coalitions, the African Campaign Network for Education for All (ANCEFA) and the Asia South Pacific Association for Basic and Adult Education  (ASPBAE), hosted meetings with their members and global partners including the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) in their respective regions.

This culminated with the Global GCE Secretariat hosting an Inter-regional meeting which brought together the aforementioned regional organizations as well as the Arab Campaign for Education for All (ACEA) and the Latin American Campaign for the Right to Education (CLADE).

These days of exchange and engagement helped identify common challenges and opportunities for civil society in achieving SDG 4, with cross-cutting themes like education financing and raising concerns around the shrinking of civil society space and maintaining the right to education in emergency contexts.

Challenges to achieving the SDG 4 agenda

Pushing the SDG 4 agenda, and advancing the right to a free, quality public education for all, remains the common thread of course, along with a strong focus on inclusion and quality. Though as many of the spotlight reports highlight, challenges remain.

In Africa, the persistence of challenges to accessing education for marginalized groups was highlighted through discussions and presentations of case examples of activities to strengthen advocacy for inclusive education.

Teaching quality was also identified as a major issue, directly linked to a large deficit of qualified teachers. In sub-Saharan Africa, only 64% of primary school teachers and 50% of secondary school teachers have received the minimum required training. This rate is the lowest in sub-Saharan Africa, where the average teachers have 60 students according to UNESCO's 2019 Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report.

Credit: ANCEFA - regional meeting in Senegal

ASPBAE members described similar challenges in achieving SDG 4 in their respective contexts. These include the difficulty to ensure equity and inclusion for people with disabilities, ethnic minorities and migrants. School-related gender-based violence was also recognized as a crucial issue in many areas.

For example, in the Philippines, E-Net, with allied networks and its persons with disabilities (PWD) members, successfully lobbied the Parliament and the Department of Education to include the allocation of PhP50 million (US$1 million) in the national budget for 2019  for the procurement and development of textbooks and other instructional materials for children with disabilities (specifically for deaf, mute, and blind children) and another PhP25 million (US$ 500,000) for capacity building of public school teachers in promoting child rights, inclusion and positive discipline in everyday teaching.

These are in line with the continuing advocacy of E-Net Philippines on inclusive and equitable education. Currently, E-Net and the PWD cluster are working with different units of the Department of Education in developing appropriate learning materials.

Similarly, in Mongolia, the AFE Coalition successfully pushed the government to adopt a new law on bilingual education, which targets specifically the Kazahk minority where school dropout rate is high due to difficulty of coping with the language of instruction.

Through this law, the coalition hopes to ensure teaching is done in the mother tongue during the early years of schooling. The Coalition is also heavily involved in the local education group (LEG) and had actively participated in the education sector implementation review process, among other policy engagements.

For CLADE in Latin America, one of the main issues remains addressing structural barriers to achieving inclusive quality education for all, namely racial and ethnic discrimination, and particularly against indigenous people, as well as gender-based discrimination and violence.

Education in emergencies: a rising concern

"For ACEA, education in emergencies has been the main focus of work in the Arab region for a while," ACEA's Fotouh Younes explained during the inter-regional meeting in Johannesburg. Egypt, Palestine, Somalia, and Syria are directly affected by conflict and other countries are surrounded by various crises as well as experiencing a massive influx of refugees.

Inclusion and non-discrimination are viewed through the lens of education in emergencies and so is education financing. A key question was how to ensure that there is funding available to address issues of inclusion in emergencies.

In crisis, education is not a priority in governments' budgets, while the situation of access to education for refugees is dire: according to UNHCR 61% of refugee children attend primary school compared to the global average of 92%. At the secondary level, this figure drops to 23% compared to 84% globally and only 1% of refugees attend university compared to 37% of students globally.

Insecurity is also a rising concern in Africa. Indeed, internal conflicts and terrorist attacks that cause population displacement dramatically affect education outcomes. Threats against teachers, attacks on school infrastructure, and the use of schools for military purposes have disrupted the education of more than 400,000 children in West Africa and forced more than 10,000 teachers out of work.

Credit: ASPBAE - regional meeting in Vietnam

Rapidly shifting political situations and the rising crisis in several countries have had an adverse impact on education in Asia and in the Pacific as well, with ASPBAE having to increasingly focus on education in emergencies.

Nani Zulminarni, President of ASPBAE and Director of Women Headed Family Empowerment (PEKKA) put an emphasis on the issue of gender-responsive education in contexts of emergencies and crisis.

The Afghanistan National Education Coalition (ANEC) discussed the establishment of the Education in Emergency Working Group (EiEWG), which is actively working towards improving education services in emergencies.

In Latin America, the crisis revolves around social conflicts and threats to citizen participation. Thus, CLADE focuses on strengthening democracy by deepening the civic aspects of education, promoting policy debates and discussions and deepening the collaboration with social movements from other sectors. An intersectoral approach is necessary to counter the growing trend of criminalization of dissent, repression of activists and militarization of schools.

Education financing: a cross-cutting priority

Education financing remains a key priority across levels and regions.

During ANCEFA’s regional meeting, a capacity-building session on education financing and related issues of privatization confirmed ANCEFA's position aligned with that of GCE in favor of strengthening public education and against the rampant privatization and commodification of education.

During the ASPBAE meeting, several factors were identified in assessing the trends in private sector involvement, namely the domestic tax base, the rising debt crisis especially debt that is illegitimate or accrued in non-transparent ways, the IMF’s Wage Bill Management policy and the growing public funding/aid allocated to for-profit education providers. As David Archer, from ActionAid International, stated during ASBAE’s regional consultations, "the Global Partnership for Education is a very useful platform which can be utilized to generate policy discussions that are in favour of education as a public service."

Indeed, GPE adopted a Private Sector Engagement Strategy that reaffirms its commitment to education as a public good and as a fundamental human right.

Transitioning to Education Out Loud

Credit: ASPBAE - Regional meeting in Vietnam

The meetings included a session aimed at preparing the closure of the Civil Society Education Fund (CSEF) and sustaining a strong engagement with GPE, especially through CSO representation on the GPE Board and Committees and through the newly introduced Education Out Loud fund. GPE, Oxfam Ibis, which manages Education Out Loud on behalf of GPE, and GCE discussed this new funding opportunity with education coalitions and explained the expectations on both sides.

These exchanges reaffirmed that GCE remains more than ever anchored in regional networks and national coalitions as defined in the GCE 2019-2022 Strategic Plan, which brings an undeniable added value to advocacy efforts at the national, regional and global levels.

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