As the largest non-governmental education provider in the world, the Catholic Church plays a major role in working toward the achievement of the fourth Sustainable Development Goal, which is to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and to promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
Yet, due to the key role that education plays in the fostering of human rights and promoting integral human development initiatives, especially by providing quality education to so many children, in particular in developing countries, Catholic schools are also aiming to achieve much more, by contributing to build stronger and more resilient communities, based upon the concepts of human fraternity and mutual solidarity.
Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on students and schools, not only due to school closures, but also in the short and medium term due to the global economic recession and the risk of multiple surges of the virus.
Recent statistics have led some to speak of an “educational catastrophe”, highlighting a marked disparity in educational and technological opportunities, with large numbers of children and adolescents falling behind in schooling.
All this seems to be much more severe in emerging and developing countries where a larger share of the population already lives in extreme poverty and where there remains a high risk that disadvantaged children will likely drop out of school.
Although the crisis may affect boys and girls alike, adolescent girls are especially at risk. As girls drop out of school, they are not only more likely to become mothers at an early age, but they are more likely to marry early, before they may be physically and emotionally ready.
This, in turn, can have a wide range of negative consequences, not only for their health and that of their children, but also for their future in the labor market, as well as the risk of suffering from domestic violence and their ability to make decisions within their households.
There remains much to do to achieve SDG4 and make the right to education a reality so that no student is left behind.
The current crisis, for all its negative impacts in the short and medium term, offers a good opportunity to implement changes that will result in better and more resilient education systems. Such is the noble purpose of this Summit, which aims to raise awareness of the urgent need to put in place a wide range of well-designed and well-funded education programs and policy responses by Governments with the support of the international community and the private sector.
“Today we have a great opportunity to express our innate sense of fraternity, to be Good Samaritans who bear the pain of other people’s troubles rather than fomenting greater hatred and resentment.” Indeed, this is the time for co-responsibility and greater commitment. This is the time “for a commitment on the part of families, communities, schools, universities, institutions, religions, governments and the entire human family to the training of mature men and women”.
To this end, the Catholic Church, with its worldwide network of educational institutions and as an expert in humanity, wishes to offer itself as a moral support, encouraging leaders to invest more in the education of youth as an indispensable means for the development of their people and a strategic asset to face the challenges that await us in the near future.
“It is time to look to the future with courage and hope. May we be sustained by the conviction that education bears within itself a seed of hope: the hope of peace and justice; the hope of beauty and goodness; the hope of social harmony”.