“As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can rest”, said Nelson Mandela.
I often think about this quote as I reflect upon my life as a Syrian-Palestinian refugee and my work as an education advocate in Lebanon. Many milestones have been reached in global education, including the GPE Financing Conference in Dakar in February, with high level political commitments to education.
But from where I stand, as a young refugee seeking to realize my potential, the fight for education for all the children of the world is an uphill but worthy struggle.
Every year, the Global Campaign for Education (GCE) organizes the Global Action Week for Education (GAWE) to promote active citizen engagement to ensure the right to quality and inclusive education for all.
As part of GAWE this year, GCE-US organized a twitter chat #GAWE2018Chat, in which I participated alongside Alice Albright, CEO of GPE. We broached many important topics including the need to finance education, the importance of providing education to refugees and the impact of youth movements and youth-led advocacy and mobilization. Rich engagement from the audience made for a fulsome conversation.
Hello everybody!— Alice Albright (@AliceAlbright) April 26, 2018
A1: Simple,because education is the best investment we can make in a more prosperous, secure, and stable future.
3 years ago, world leaders committed to achieve the #SDGs by 2030, education is the key to ensuring the success of that vision. #GAWE2018CHAT https://t.co/1jtOLUxRCw
Questions asked by GCE-US raised many issues that I did not have the opportunity to answer during the chat, so I’m doing so here.
Why are you passionate about the cause, and how do you advocate for the right to education?
- Because education transforms lives! It is essential to realize and exercise all of our human rights! Investing in education is an investment in our country’s future. It’s an investment in the future of generations.
- Because I have been out of school myself, and part of the alarming global statistics for out-of-school children. I experienced firsthand how the lack of education can cause someone to be hopeless and see no future for themselves.
- As a refugee, education gave me career opportunities and the hope to live a fulfilling life. And every day, it does the same for the refugee children I work with.
- I advocate for education by lending my voice to the Global Partnership for Education as a youth advocate. I also work with Jusoor – an NGO which helps Syrian youth realize their potential through education, career development and global community engagement.
- I’m part of a team that founded education programs for over 4000 out-of-school Syrian refugee children in Lebanon. I also lead the scholarship program for university-age refugee students in Lebanon.
- I believe advocacy for education happens not only by speaking at international and regional events, but also by participating in grassroots initiatives, talking to students, teachers, parents, local religious leaders, policy-makers and politicians. I believe civic engagement to safeguard the right to quality education and ensure it is available for all is essential.
- Finally advocacy for education works! I personally advocated for the importance of education directly to the parents of the students in the refugee camps. As a result, most of the parents sent their children to our school, who had previously not been attending.
As a refugee what are the most pressing challenges that need to be addressed to make sure children and youth don’t miss out on their chance to learn?
- There is often no provision of formal or non-formal education for refugee children in host countries. At the beginning of the Syrian war, in Lebanon, Syrian children and youth did not have access to any type of education for more than two years.
- Children may be exposed to child labor, early marriages, and extremist ideas, hopeless for any positive change. In many cases, this may cause psychological consequences that will be difficult to overcome.
- Refugee children may speak a different language than what is used in host countries, putting them even more at a disadvantage.
- The lack of opportunities to work as refugees is an important factor that discourages refugee children from going to school (the average time of displacement is more than 20 years, so children will need to find opportunities for work after they finish school).
- Refugee families are often unable to bear the costs associated with sending their children to school. Unfortunately, for some refugee families, education is not a priority as they have other competing priorities such as housing, food, and healthcare.
GPE just hosted a successful Financing Conference in Dakar, with strong youth participation, what were the key takeaways?
- The world’s attention is now on education, and in particular the education of refugee children and youth. It was very heartening to see that 53 developing countries pledged to spend $110 billion on their education systems in the next 3 years! This is the commitment that the children and youth of the world need!
- Gender equality in education and providing education to children in fragile and conflict-affected situations, in emergencies, to refugees and internally displaced children is of paramount importance to achieve SDG 4 – to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all.
- At the GPE Financing Conference, young people’s voices were finally heard! Youth delegates delivered a solidarity statement to world leaders, which focused on inclusive and equitable education, education in emergencies, and youth participation in education policy-making. Why? Because it’s our future we’re talking about!
- Most importantly, everyone alike – from developing and developed countries, young as well as old – agreed that the children and young people of the world need to be our priority. Their education is critical to global prosperity and security.
Why and how does GPE incorporate youth voices into global education work?
- GPE works directly with young people to make their voices heard. Last year, GPE established the Youth Advocates Group (YAG), comprised of seven young advocates from around the world. I am a member of the YAG.
- YAG members lent their voice to GPE financing campaign, highlighting education issues they advocate on (gender equality, inclusive education, refugee education and financing and accountability)
- As GPE youth advocates we’ve been part of social media campaigns and actions, written blogs and participated to global and regional public policy platforms, providing a youth perspective on the impact of education systems and reforms on the lives of children and young people.
- GPE publishes blogs written by young people across the world, reflecting their experiences in their education systems and highlighting their recommendations to national governments and the international community.
How can youth become involved in global education advocacy? Can you share resources?
- The quickest way to get involved and make your voice heard is through social media. You can follow @GPforEducation on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube where you can follow the developments in global education policies.
- Write to your local politicians or international leaders directly via twitter highlighting the importance of funding education.
- Find local youth groups that conduct education advocacy and join the movement.
- Learn about the importance of education and how education is essential for all other aspects of development
- Engage with your local education coalitions through the Global Campaign for Education
- Use the Youth Advocacy Toolkit to define your education campaigns and goals
- Join the UNESCO #MakeitPublic campaign: calling on all countries to produce regular national education monitoring reports as a tool for governments to report to their citizens on the progress of education in their countries.
- Young people all around the world have a crucial role to in advocating for quality education, and their civic engagement is vital to hold governments responsible for education reforms and results.
I hope you will join the movement to #FundEducation and ensure that every child has access to quality education.