Unesco is celebrating World Education Day on January 24, 2020, thus underlining the fundamental nature of education to combat inequality and secure the future of the world. The fact remains that as of today, there are just ten years left to realize the right to education for all, as pledged by 193 heads of state in 2015 in the development of the 2030 Agenda. This sadly now stands unrealistic in a world where exclusions and inequalities are only growing.
It is just a year since World Education Day, celebrated on January 24, was created by the General Assembly of the United Nations to remind the world that education was above all a pillar of human well-being and of sustainable development. A fair return of things – if one might say so- since education was until now forgotten by political leaders. Relegated to the background, behind causes deemed “more useful”, it had never received the attention and support it deserved. Proof of this is that while heads of state and politicians have often praised it, they have often devoted only a few percent of their development aid to it, leaving millions of children excluded from quality education. Since 2018, the trend has changed and aid to education in the world is increasing, but it is struggling to catch up with the delay accumulated over its years: today, UNESCO estimates it is short of nearly $39 billion per year to achieve education for all.
An anniversary to celebrate the fundamental right to education
For this second anniversary of World Education Day, UNESCO adopts an even sharper discourse and affirms the vital importance of education, recalling that it is “a fundamental human right, a public good, the humanity’s best renewable resource and above all the engine that will enable the Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved by 2030 ”. These goals were adopted in 2015 by 193 heads of state, with a view to building a more just and sustainable world. Building on founding texts such as the Declaration of Human Rights or the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNESCO stresses that education is not only an additional opportunity granted to individuals, “a chance” to acquire knowledge and skills, a freedom left to the vagaries of life or the goodwill of individuals. It is, on the contrary, a right that States must undertake to respect, in the same way as the right to life, to peace, to health or to housing … Accessible to all individuals, without any discrimination, the right to education is moreover a “multiplier” right: it does not only guarantee access to knowledge, but it is like a golden thread leading to other rights, “the one that will give to peoples”, as the ‘UNESCO wrote this year, “the means to act to preserve the planet, build shared prosperity and promote peace“.
A far too slow awareness
“Were all adults to complete secondary school, the poverty rate in the world would decrease by half,” estimates Unesco. Improving job prospects, increasing incomes, empowering girls and women, improving maternal and child health, reducing early marriages and pregnancies … the direct benefits of access to education are powerful. There has been ample evidence that education promotes economic growth, helps reduce inequality and provides answers to global environmental problems, not only by raising awareness but also by encouraging people to take more action.
However, despite all these proven benefits, awareness of the importance of education is more than slow. Least developed states are now struggling to invest the recommended minimum of 4-6% of GDP in education. Even today, 258 million children, adolescents and young people are still denied the right to study. And among children who go to school, less than one in two reach the minimum threshold for reading, writing and numeracy skills at the end of primary education. If the current trend continues, one in six children in 2030 will be out of primary and secondary education, while four in ten young people will be excluded from secondary education. The situation will hardly be less than bright for adults too: more than 750 million adults will not have the skills to participate in the economy of tomorrow in low- and middle-income countries and 1.5 billion adults will have no education beyond primary school.
Le Monde will be almost 50 years behind in fighting school exclusion
193 heads of state, met at the United Nations in 2015, and gave themselves 15 years to the day to reach 17 Sustainable Development Goals to build a world without disease, famine, inequality or poverty, in which everyone would have access to 12 years of free education. Almost nothing has changed in the past five years; on the contrary exclusion and inequality seem to be constantly increasing and it is a safe bet today that the next ten years will not achieve these objectives. Indeed, almost two thirds of developing countries are behind in achieving the SDGs related to food, health, access to water and sanitation, and education. As for fragile states, this proportion rises to four out of five countries. On average, the world will, therefore, be more than 50 years behind in keeping this promise, estimates UNESCO.
10 years to act before it is too late
Once again, leaders and politicians will, therefore, fail, despite their rhetoric, to keep their promises. And 2030 is unlikely to see the birth of a new world. Perhaps for lack of means and for lack of political will. As always, the most penalized will be the most vulnerable: those who live marginalized because of their beliefs, their ethnicities, their disability, those 5% of the world population left behind, on the side of the road, outside the main development dynamics. Faced with such an injustice, Aide et Action has chosen to take a turn and rethink its mission “to contribute to the construction of a world where everyone has the opportunity to develop their full potential through access to education and quality learning.”
Aide et Action is committed to the right to education of the most vulnerable
Founded 37 years ago to provide education for all, including children in primary school, the association now directs its actions towards the most vulnerable, the most isolated, those whose human rights, including the rights to education, are the most flouted. We will now accompany them throughout their lives so that they acquire knowledge, from pre-school to socio-professional learning through primary and secondary, with the sole objective of offering everyone the same development opportunities. In addition to the projects it carries out in the field, Aide et Action will support people on the path to citizenship so that they contribute to social change at local, national and international levels. These new lines of intervention will take into account the challenges in terms of climate change, security and migration. They will ultimately allow us to act globally, on all the obstacles to education, so that the most vulnerable and marginalized can, through knowledge and knowledge, control their own development and contribute to a more peaceful and sustainable.