“I eventually had to accept the fact that I was not welcome in my homeland…I spent the last seven years searching for a way to continue my education, but I have not been successful…” (JN Joniad, 2019)
The International Day of Education — celebrated on the 24th of January 2020 for the second consecutive year — promotes access to education as a fundamental human right, a public good and a public responsibility that contributes significantly to peace and development worldwide. Forming part of the Sustainable Development Goals, inclusive quality education is one of the most powerful tools for targeting gender and wealth inequality and promoting the realisation of potential and improved well-being at the individual, community, and global level. Indeed, Audrey Azoulay, Director General of UNESCO, reiterates that “education is the cornerstone of the Sustainable Development Goals: if we fail on education, the entire structure of development will fall down”.
Access to education is a universal human right that plays a crucial role in developing fair, equitable and peaceful societies and empowering people to expand their lifelong opportunities and break the cycle of poverty. As of 2020, UNESCO reports that there are as many as 4 million children and youth refugees without access to learning — a staggering number that forms just part of 258 million children and youth globally who do not attend school. This must change and be addressed to ensure that all children and youth are afforded their non-discriminatory right to education.
In the face of the many challenges hindering universal access to education, the spirit of the International Day of Education is nevertheless alive through many shining examples across the world. In the middle of Moria — Europe’s largest refugee camp situated on the Greek island, Lesbos — over 1,000 students are able to take classes at the Wave of Hope for the Future-run school, founded by Afghani asylum seeker, Zekria Farzad, who also resides at Moria and was alarmed at the lack of learning opportunities available to children and youth in the camp. Disenfranchisement from education for children within the camps is a critical issue, exacerbated by the fact that many are, along with their families, left waiting for extended periods of time in the over-crowded camps for a decision to be made on their asylum application. The school, however, provides a safe haven for the children, providing them with the opportunity to continue their education and expand their learning opportunities. This access to education for the children and youth residing in refugee camps strengthens their ability to realise their individual potential and pursue ambitions, as well as shaping future generations and the lives of their communities.
Through this year’s theme of “Learning for People, the Planet, Prosperity and Peace”, UNESCO issues a call to action encouraging global mobilisation to make the right to education “a reality for all”. As such, this 24th of January, let’s acknowledge and celebrate the role of education in shaping our world and our future. Let us be reminded of the power of learning and fight for the right for all to access quality and equitable education.
To read more about the the Wave of Hope for the Future-run school in Moria, click here.
To read JN Joniad’s article on how the denial of education to Rohingya refugees has deeply affected the lives of individuals and communities, click here.
Article by Laura Coburn
Image taken from the social media pack from UNESCO, available here.