January 04, 2017

10 things young people want the new UN Secretary-General to know about education

Ousmane Ba and Taha Fathima Khan

Global Youth Ambassadors for Theirworld

Antonio Guterres has just started his new job as Secretary-General of the United Nations. Here two of Theirworld's Global Youth Ambassadors send him a message that education must be high on his agenda.

It is of utmost importance for education to be a top priority of the incoming UN Secretary-General. Here we show 10 things that young people want Antonio Guterres to know about education.

They are just few of the many things that young people want to bring attention to. Today, due to emergencies around the world, education remains a distant dream for millions of children. We want to urge the Secretary-General to make that dream become an achievable reality.

Education delayed is education denied

The longer children remain out of school, the less likely they are to finish their education. With the passing of each academic year, the crisis worsens significantly. 

Children who are not in school face a higher risk of violence, being drawn into child labour, recruited into armed groups, child marriage and trafficking - making it nearly impossible for them ever to go back to school. 

Education also supports the emotional and physical needs of displaced children, protecting their childhood, while giving them skills needed to rebuild their communities.

Quality education is key

The right to education doesn’t merely refer to the right to access education but also the right to receive quality education. Strengthening a country's education sector, by ensuring that minimal education standards are adhered to, is key to the development of communities and nations.

Education determines the success and accomplishment of the other SDGs

While (quality) education is a goal in itself, it plays a role in accentuating progress towards fulfilling the other Sustainable Development Goals

Education helps break the circle of poverty and promote sustainable development in emerging nations. It improves outcomes in health, economic growth, job creation and employment, innovation, climate and security. 

Education goes above and beyond textbooks to equip young people with life skills. In turn, these skills lead to awareness and understanding of the importance of the 17 SDGs, making them an achievable reality.  

Ousmane Ba and Taha Fathima Khan with Helle Thorning-Schmidt, CEO of Save The Children International

Education can help bridge the gender gap

Currently, women make up two-thirds of the illiterate population. Female enrollment in school increasingly sinks as the levels of education advances. 

This trend needs to be shifted and education is the only tool that can change the narrative and create a fair and just world with equal opportunities for both men and women.

Education can promote health and wellness

Women with three or more years of education are more like to seek pre-medical care, an assisted childbirth, which contribute to higher level of maternal and child health care.

Moreover, mothers who have some level of education are 50% more likely to immunise their children. In addition, every additional year of maternal education reduces the child mortality rate by up to 2%.

Education is a prerequisite for long-term economic growth

For every year of additional education, a person’s average income earning increases by 10%, which translates to 1% annual increase in gross domestic product, according to UNESCO. This sparks more economic growth.

New UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was UN High Commissioner for Refugees for a decade

Photo credit: UNHCR/Helene Caux

Education promotes peace

Studies have shown that a 10% spike in secondary school enrollment reduces the possibility of war by 3%. 

The Human Rights Convention declares: “Education must prepare a child for responsible life and effective participation in a free society in a spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes and friendship among all people, ethnic, national and religious groups and person of indigenous origin.” 

Thus, with education, a child can learn the importance of empathy, be more tolerance towards those of different cultures and race.

Education is a crucial building block for an inclusive democratic society

Society cannot progress forward without people who are educated and therefore able to partake in the democratic process and be more aware of their rights and responsibilities.

Educated citizens are more likely to stand against corruption and bad governance and mobilise themselves in support of government accountability.

Reallocation of resources needs to reflect the importance of education

Since 2010, less than 2% of humanitarian funding has been spent on education in emergencies. $8.5 billion is needed annually to close this gap. 

The Education Cannot Wait fund hopes to generate additional funding to close this gap needed to reach 75 million children. However, the focus must not shift to ensure that the fund fulfils its promised purpose. 

Education is one of the strongest drivers of economic growth, making it a good investment. Increasing and ensuring spending in this sector can give rise to a sustainable economic front.

Integration of young voices and other community stakeholders in decision-making

Decisions are best made when there is an open discourse between all stakeholders. In the context of education, this includes young people, families, communities, private organisations, government authorities, and, often, inter-governmental bodies. 

However, what is frequently seen is that young voices are, at best, given exclusive outlets and forums while being completely excluded from watershed discussions. Young people don’t need separate summits and meetings; they need to be included in the existing ones.

This can create transparency, accountability, improve planning and implementation of policies, to better tackle issues.

What does new UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres need to deliver for children?

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