Norway summits will keep global education issues on agenda

Children in conflicts, Education in emergencies, Safe schools

Norwegian children show they’re #UpForSchool at Nobel Peace Prize event organised by Save The Children Norway in 2014 Picture: Save the Children Norway/Kjetil Skårdal Andersen

A summit on global education in Oslo will call on world leaders to renew their commitment to getting all children into school. With the July 6 and 7 talks fast approaching, education campaigners across Norway are working hard to keep up the pressure. 

From famous supporters joining hundreds of people at a mass rally to giant photos at venues across the city, the calls to make 2015 the year that action is taken to ensure all children have the chance to go to school will be heard.

The international community promised in 2000 – as part of the Millennium Development Goals – to get every child into school by 2015. But 58 million children remain out of school and millions more are not learning.

The Oslo Summit on Education will bring together governments, donors and experts to tackle the stalled progress on global education. It will address the key issue of financing, as well as the quality of learning – in particular for girls – and children living in a conflict zones or disaster areas.

It is one of two big meetings in the Norwegian capital in the coming weeks. The other is the Oslo Conference on Safe Schools: Protecting Education from Attack, which takes place on May 28 and 29. Countries will be there to sign the Safe Schools Declaration to stop children and schools being part of the battlefield.

A World At School has been looking at the campaigning activities in Norway and talking to people taking part in the events.

Sylvi Bratten and Jørn Wichne Pedersen

Last year only 1% of humanitarian funding went to education. A World At School and partners will be attending the Oslo Summit on Education and will be campaigning to ensure donor countries agree to create a fast-moving humanitarian fund to help children in emergency situations go back to school as soon as possible.

Tove Wang, CEO of Save the Children Norway, said: “Education has fallen off the global development agenda in the last decade. I hope that the Oslo summit can be the turning point for making global education a top priority.”

The talks will be followed immediately by the International Conference on Financing for Development, a second opportunity to turn rhetoric on education into reality. These opportunities must be captured to save the lives and futures of millions of out-of-school children, their families and their communities.

Firstly, Sylvi Bratten, Senior Advocacy Advisor on Global Education at Save the Children Norway.

Q. What do you want to see happen at the Oslo Summit on Education?

A. I would like to see the summit create the momentum needed to secure financing for education from both donors and governments, so that the commitments to education for all can be fulfilled.

The timing for this summit is really very good indeed. It comes after the World Education Forum and just before the Financing For Development Conference in Ethiopia.

The fact that Norway is hosting this summit proves that it is serious about seeking a leading role globally on the issue of education. In particular, we need the Norwegian hosts and United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education to succeed at ensuring education for marginalised groups of children, such as those living in conflicts and crises.  

Friends of Malala Yousafzai at the Nobel Peace Prize event in Oslo Picture: Save the Children Norway/Kjetil Skårdal Andersen

Q. How is Save the Children Norway involved in campaign efforts ahead of the summit?

A. We are part of a coalition organising a civil society/innovative business side event a day prior to the summit. The side event is called Partnering for Education and will facilitate three sessions on key issues such as financial investments, education in humanitarian emergencies and leveraging digital solutions to close the education gap.

The invitations will be sent out soon. We are hoping a cross-section of government officials, organisations, private sector companies and academics will join us. Input from the side event will be presented at the summit.

Q. Have you been collecting signatures for the #UpForSchool Petition, which calls on world leaders to keep their promise to get all chilren into school?

A. Save the Children Norway facilitated the children’s celebration of Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi as Nobel Peace Prize laureates in December in Oslo last year. The celebration gathered thousands of children and we used the opportunity to  circulate flyers on #UpForSchool and encourage online support for the petition.  

Next up is Jørn Wichne Pedersen, President of the Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund.

Q. What do you want to see happen at the two Oslo summits?

A. We have been campaigning for student and academic rights for 54 years, and in the last decade we have been following attacks on schools and universities very closely. We are deeply concerned education is under attack in many countries around the world. We want to make sure that attacks are properly investigated and those responsible prosecuted within national and international laws.

We are hoping the Safe Schools Declaration wil be a significant part of the Oslo Summit on Education. We have been working on the Safe Schools Initiative for what seems like every day and night now for over one and a half years, so we are really looking forward to around 50 states arriving in Oslo to sign the Declaration at the safe schools conference. It’s not a silver bullet but it’s a very big step in the right direction.

Q. How engaged and supportive is the Norwegian government?

A. When it comes to education, the Norwegian government’s actions are commendable. They have taken the lead to host both summits and promote the Safe Schools Declaration. They have also scaled up education in their aid budget. They seem to be very committed which is great.

Nobel Peace Prize winners Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi at the Save The Children Norway party last year Picture: Save the Children Norway/Kjetil Skårdal Andersen

What has been happening in Norway to build campaigning towards the summits?

A. Over 200 schools and 11 universities and colleges are busy collecting signatures for the #UpForSchool Petition right now! We are all really excited to hear the petition has already reached five million signatures globally.

We are busy inviting famous people who have supported our campaign to come along to a big public event in Oslo, where we are expecting hundreds of people to attend. We are also printing really big images to display in different venues across Oslo.

The photographs will visually show the problems for children not having an education and the solutions to get young people into school. We are hoping our activities will attract some media attention.

Kolleen Bouchane, Director of Advocacy and Policy for A World At School, knows that the Oslo Summit for Education is a critical opportunity to convene donor countries to make commitments, discuss how to increase and coordinate donor aid and eliminate financing unpredictability within countries.

She said: “In particular, wide agreement on the need to create a humanitarian fund to prioritise and finance education in emergencies is critical. It will be a strong signal of commitment to get children in emergency and conflict situations back into safe learning settings as soon as possible.”

Of the 58 million children around the world who are denied an education, half are children living in conflict or emergency-affected situations.

Kolleen explained: “The longer schools are closed, the greater the risk of children never returning to their education. We know that when there are school closures, rates of teenage pregnancy, child labour and child marriages all go up rapidly. In a conflict and emergency situation it is even worse.

“Families make decisions fast, from a range of only bad options. Often within a few months of a crisis, parents decide to marry their child or send their child off to work because they believe that will be the only way to survive.”

You can sign the #UpForSchool Petition here.

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