Peoples Voices at the World Education Forum

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For the past two and a half years, the United Nations has asked people around the world to tell them what matters most to their lives. Thus far, 4.9 million of the 7.5 million people who voted in the MY World Global Survey have chosen “A better education”. This trend is true regardless of age, gender, education level and is similar across most countries in the world.

Anthony Lake, Executive Director UNICEF
Anthony Lake, Executive Director UNICEF

From May 18-21, we partnered with UNICEF in the production of an exhibit to amplify the voices of people around the world at the 2015 World Education Forum in Incheon, South Korea. The forum, co-convened by UNDP, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNHCR & UN Women, brought together stakeholders from all sectors to look at achievements and shortfalls from the Millennium Development Goals and the Education for All targets. Participants agreed on the Incheon Declaration which sets out a renewed vision in education, one that aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all.

The exhibit featured data visualizations on the importance of education for people around the world, such as the MY World datasetMY World priority heat mapUN Global Pulse MY World Twitter mappingWorld We Want key word visualisations, and stories of why people voted for education through the Humans of MY World communications campaign. UNICEF showcased two innovations targeting the out-of-school children:  Raspberry Pi Learning Initiative from Lebanon provides non-formal education to the millions of displaced children as a result of the Syrian crisis, and E-learning, offers accelerated learning opportunities to some of the 1.8 million out-of-school children in Sudan.

Executive Directors Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka UN Women and Irina Bokova, UNESCO visit the exhibit
Executive Directors Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka UN Women and Irina Bokova, UNESCO visit the exhibit

The exhibition centered around Clouds Over Sidra, a virtual reality experience about the daily life of a Syrian refugee. Clouds Over Sidra tells the story of a 12 year old Syrian refugee living in the Za’atari Camp in Jordan. Sidra talks about the important support structures in the camp, including education, football for girls, wrestling and computer labs for the boys. She also talks about the children who don’t use these support structures:

Some kids don’t go to school. They want to wait until we are back home in Syria. I think it’s silly to wait. How will they remember anything? And there is nothing to do here anyway.

Created in partnership with the UNMC, UNICEF Jordan, VRSE.works, and Samsung, this virtual reality experience, the first ever, reinforces key messaging from the #nolostgeneration campaign regarding the plight of children of Syria and for the 84,000 people living in the Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan. In Syria alone, 5.6 million children have been affected by violence with an additional 2 million living out of the country as refugees. Save the Children estimates that school enrollment has dropped to 50%, and UNICEF estimates 24% of schools have been damaged, destroyed or used as shelters.

IMG_8386Although we have made excellent progress in education, access to education is not distributed fairly leaving the most vulnerable behind. For too many children, conflict and war upends their lives and defers or ends their education. In 2012, it was reported that more than 36% of out-of-school children worldwide live in conflict-affected areas. In the MY World Survey, people from Syria voted first and foremost for “A better education” followed by “Better job opportunities” and “Protection against Crime and Violence.’ UNICEF supports thousands of children through formal and non-formal education programs, providing them with classrooms, supplies, psycho-social support and other child and adolescent friendly activities. It aims to provide a sense of normalcy and support to try to get them back into schools, not only for those in conflict zones, but also displaced people and refugees.

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The shift from the Millennium Development Goals to the new Sustainable Development Agenda sees a shift not only in providing access to a quality education, but also ensuring that the most vulnerable children are put at the heart of the new agenda. Giving every child a fair chance to learn has been proven to narrow the gaps between the wealthiest and poorest and pave the way to prosperity, stability and peace.

The forum will set a strong path towards the UN General-Assembly in September, and towards a strong set of goals and targets on quality education for the new Sustainable Development Agenda.

The event was covered by AP News and appeared in the NY Times, the Washington Post, Yahoo News, ABC News etc.

Read the outcomes from the Forum here: http://en.unesco.org/world-education-forum-2015/

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