International community honors learning heroes amidst COVID-19 pandemic
25 January 2021: International community celebrated the heroic efforts of teachers, educators and students to ensure learning continues in the context of COVID-19 pandemic at the global observance of the International Day of Education.
The third International Day of Education comes during the unprecedented disruption of education systems in history, affecting nearly 1.6 billion learners in over 190 countries and all continents. Under the theme “Recover and Revitalize Education for the COVID-19 Generation”, the global observance celebrated initiatives of governments, educators, organizations, as well as partnerships, demonstrating the potential to recommit education to the principles of equity and relevance.
UN Group of Friends for Education and Lifelong Learning paid tribute to the efforts and achievements of the educators worldwide. Representing the group, H.E. Ambassador Odd-Inge Kvalheim, Deputy Permanent Representative of Norway to the United Nations, joined the UN Secretary General, UNESCO Director General and the President of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly in championing the cause of education globally.
“Today we commemorate the tireless efforts of teachers, school administrators, government officials and other dedicated individuals who have made possible that children and youth continued to learn even against the largest disruption of our education systems due to COVID-19 pandemic”, said Ambassador Kvalheim.
By highlighting the role of education as essential vector of sustainable development, Ambassador Kvalheim recalled that this unprecedented situation is an opportunity to build back better and more resilient education systems. He further made the case for increased and sufficient domestic and foreign financing for education and encouraged all states, multilateral organizations and civil society organizations to support the process led by UNESCO to develop a new and better global education cooperation mechanism.
Across the UN system, leaders voiced support to avert “a generational catastrophe” as Mr Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General highlighted the foundational role of education for “expanding opportunities, transforming economies, fighting intolerance, protecting our planet and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals”. His call was echoed by Mrs Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO’s Director General, who stressed the urgency to take better account of the issues of tomorrow in education, including climate change education, global citizenship education, media literacy and digital skills. Mrs Azoulay also highlighted the importance to protect the educational community, pupils and families and called for teachers to be considered as a priority group during the vaccination campaign as the continuity of learning depends on it.
H.E. Mr Volkan Bozkir, President of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly, stressed the need to address the current digital divide and ensure accessible online resources for all. As per the Global Education Monitoring Report, he expressed concern that an estimated 11 million girls and young women may never return to education. “Inclusive education is the foundation for building a more equal, just and safer society. Education has the power to break the cycle of poverty and conflict. Education can also build media and information literacy, producing global citizens who are better able to engage critically in the world”, he concluded.
H.E. Mr Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the United Nations, amplified the sense of urgency by urging all stakeholders to mainstream education in their response to mitigate conflicts, hunger, poverty and instability, including by allocating at least 4% of GDP and 15% of public expenditure towards education.
“The notion of leaving no one behind should start with education as the greatest investment for society and the most effective equalizer”, stressed H.E. Mr Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, Nigerian Ambassador to the UN, - an ardent advocate for education who spearheaded the proclamation of the International Day of Education by the UN General Assembly.
Teachers and activists from different parts of the world shared their experiences of resuming education during the pandemic and emphasized the necessity to empower teachers by introducing innovative solutions and providing opportunities for their skills development.
As part of the global observance, recipients of the award “Conversation with The Little Prince” were celebrated. The writing contest organized by the Center for Research and Interdisciplinary Studies on the occasion of the 120th anniversary of the birth of Antoine de Saint Exupéry had attracted more than 2,500 submissions around the world, with participants sharing their stories of imaginary conversations with the Little Prince.