By Wevyn Muganda
I recently attended the Schools2030 Forum in Porto, Portugal courtesy of UNICEF Generation Unlimited; the world’s biggest public private partnership for young people and one of the partners of the forum. The Schools2030 is a programme based in 1,000 government schools across ten countries aimed at improving participatory learning and the quality of education as a whole. The forum is hosted by Aga Khan Foundation and partners from different stakeholders including teachers, governments, civil society and philanthropy institutions.
The Forum was interactive and engaging in different thematic areas of education. Discussions centred around inclusivity and pluralism in learning institutions. From sharing innovative practices to co-creating solutions through a human-centred design to interactive side events, the forum was insightful and enriching.
On the last day, I had the privilege of delivering the opening remarks where I talked about some of the youth engagement work I have done with young people. I highlighted the Youth Public Private Partnership model by UNICEF Generation Unlimited that positions youth and youth expertise at the core of decision making.
Because I started my advocacy and development career as a human rights activist, my approach is always human rights-centred and intersectional, acknowledging that, the lack of one fundamental freedom affects the fulfilment of others. Therefore, as a peacebuilder, education is not just about learning in schools and acquiring skills for the job market. Education is a critical tool for peacebuilding and is a transformative process that can help to restore trust and social cohesion, enabling communities to come together and work towards common goals.
In post-conflict and crisis situations, education is critical in supporting communities to recover and rebuild their lives. Schools are avenues for knowledge, socialization and the creation of identities that ultimately shape the way young people perceive their roles in society. They can also provide safe spaces for children and youth to learn, play, and interact with their peers. If education is not equitable and accessible to all young people, then it can undermine peacebuilding and deepen social injustices. Schools have in some instances been places for radicalization, gender-based violence, discrimination and exclusion, particularly for women, girls and other marginalised groups of young people.
Education and education institutions should create opportunities for the promotion of human rights and well-being of young people ultimately contributing to their human development. Education must therefore be contextualized and continuously evolve. Curriculums must change, our teachers must continuously be trained, and education systems must adapt to the generation of learners, socio-political needs and contexts to ensure that every young person, particularly those at the margins can gain quality education.
To do this, young people must be included, because ultimately every intervention such as programmes and policies designed must add value to young people’s lives. The meaningful engagement and inclusion of young people in decision-making are paramount to the success of youth programmes and policies. Young people are the experts in their lives and their agency must therefore be recognised. Participation is a key pillar of the Youth, Peace and Security Agenda that recognises young people’s role in peacebuilding. It also recognises the role that education has to play in peacebuilding. Through peace education, formal education and other non-formal spaces of learning such as through sports, arts and culture, young people can be equipped for the world we live in today and in the future.
But educational institutions cannot achieve these goals alone. It requires the support and collaboration of a range of actors, including governments, civil society organizations, and international partners. Together, these stakeholders can work to ensure that education is equitable, accessible, and of high quality for all children and youth – regardless of their backgrounds or circumstances.
Based on the forum’s discussions, my key takeaways to enhancing quality education for all children and youth are;
Strengthen Partnerships and Network Coordination to maximise resources and avoid duplication of efforts
Intergenerational leadership is critical in tapping into the knowledge and expertise of young people and the older generation. Youth Inclusion should be an opportunity, not a threat.
Human rights-based and intersectional approaches can increase the effectiveness of education to address social inequalities such as gender inequality, racism, social exclusion, climate change etc. An inclusive and holistic system of education is not only important but necessary if we are to leave no one behind
Listen, Amplify and Consider the voices of young people in decision-making. The lived experiences are invaluable knowledge to policy and programming
Invest in solutions designed and led by young people and their educators. There can be no sustainable development without financing.
Last and most importantly; the protection of the rights of young people in schools and communities must be at the top of all our priorities. Every young person deserves a safe and dignifying environment that encourages learning, creativity and development.