How UNESCO staff defend the right to education on the ground – part I

24 October 2018

UNESCO staff Mr Folin-Calabi with children at the Al Buraq school in Gaza, October 2018. © Motaz Alaaraj

Every day, UNESCO works across the globe to defend the right to education for every woman, man and child. But how does it take shape on the ground?

Meet the Organization’s staff who have worked on this issue in different parts of the world. Their testimonies provide examples of the successes and challenges in making the right to quality education a reality for all. 

Mr Lodovico Folin-Calabi, UNESCO Representative to Palestine and Head of Office

“Like in many field offices, UNESCO works at different levels in Palestine: we support the government on education legislation, policy and governance, as well as the implementation of a variety of projects. We are part of a number of thematic working groups chaired by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education on various issues such as higher education, inclusive education, curriculum, TVET and education in emergencies. The right to education is inherently connected to all of these issues. In the current context of Palestine where barriers to the right to education are increasing, support to inclusive and quality education is more critical than ever before. All children have the right to quality education in their neighborhood schools, and they have the right to qualified teachers who are trained and capable to meet in these standards and place conflict‑sensitive education at the heart of their teaching.

We support the government with the implementation of its Inclusive Education Policy, guaranteeing the right to education to all children in Palestine, regardless of their background or any challenges they might have.

In 2017, the Palestinian government ratified a new education law with UNESCO providing its comments as well as gathering input from international partners working in the field of education to ensure that it was in line with international standards, norms and conventions.

In the past years, UNESCO worked with national partners to advance the right to education for vulnerable higher education students, through the establishment of 10 community libraries across the West Bank and Gaza, benefitting more than 48,000 students through the provision of study materials, skills development, research support and other services.

Additionally, we supported inclusive and child-friendly education, through pilot child-led activities and innovative teaching/learning methods in 119 pilot schools, benefiting 30,000 children and 1700 teachers and supervisors in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip.  

Generally, there are countless examples of the lack of right to education in Palestine and access to quality education is often a challenge and a daily struggle for children and youth. There is a major lack of quality educational facilities, many students are facing violence on the way to school and some schools are at risk of demolition.”

Ms Rokhaya Diawara, Education Programme Specialist, UNESCO Abuja

UNESCO staff Ms Diawara (right) with schoolchildren in Togo, February 2017. © UNESCO

“In many parts of Africa, limited schools and long distance between school and villages are parts of the challenges facing education. Additionally, many communities are confronted with the challenges of insecurity, cultural and traditional perceptions that have obstructed access to equitable and quality education.

In places where cultural barriers pose a major obstacle to access to school, UNESCO is bringing education directly to learners, mostly girls, through what we call ‘School Meets Learners Approach (SMLA)’. It consists of packaging and delivering education through television, radio and mobile devices. In northeastern Nigeria, we are using existing school curriculum and transferring them into digital content through tablet devices that we provide to learners with the support of our partners. This project is allowing not just the direct beneficiaries to receive education, but it is also spreading literacy to other members of their families.

In Côte d'Ivoire, there have been major efforts to mitigate the effect of distances on school attendance by ensuring the establishment of primary and secondary schools in villages, making tuition free for primary school and making education compulsory for Children. Incentives such as reduced fares or free transportation, free access to healthcare for students and free textbooks are the types of things that can also enable and advance the right to education in many communities.”

  • From 15 October to 18 December 2018, UNESCO is running a digital campaign on the #RightToEducation to mark the 70th year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Join here.