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Russia school shooting: Guterres ‘deeply saddened’ by attack which left 15 dead

According to news reports, the gunman who was known to authorities and was a former pupil at the school Number 88, was wearing a Nazi swastika on his T-shirt during the attack, and Russian authorities are investigating the perpetrator’s suspected neo-Nazi links.

In a statement issued by his Deputy-Spokesperson, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, strongly condemned the “act of violence, and expresses his deepest condolences to the families of the victims, as well as to the Government and people of the Russian Federation. He wishes those injured a speedy and full recovery.

News reports said that the attacker, who was in his early 30s, killed two security guards at the school then opened fire on students and teachers. All but two of those wounded were children. He had been armed with two pistols and a large supply of ammunition.

The school is located in western Russia, some 600 miles (965 kilometres) east of Moscow. Izvesk is the capital of the Udmurt Republic.  

‘Make schools safe’

The head of UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, tweeted that she was deeply shocked by the shooting of children and their teachers at the school.

“I strongly condemn this horrendous attack. Deepest condolences to (the) families of victims and the Russian people. We need immediate action to stop this senseless violence, and make schools safe.”

UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) chief, Catherine Russell, tweeted later on Monday that “every child has the right to be safe in school, wherever they are and whatever their circumstances.”

The attacker had reportedly been registered with a local psychiatric facility.

There have been several school shootings in Russia in recent years including in the provincial capital of Kazan, in May 2021, when nine people were killed by a gunman – seven students and two employees – and last September, when six were killed and 47 injured, on a university campus, in the city of Perm.

In response to those incidents, the Russian Government reportedly tightened gun ownership laws.


ILO welcomes first global agreement on professional footballers’ rights

“Free, independent, strong and representative employers’ and workers’ organizations, together with trust, commitment and respect by the governments for the autonomy of the social partners are key conditions for effective social dialogue in football,” said Guy Ryder, head of the International Labour Organization (ILO), at the signing ceremony at the agency’s headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

Standing united

The agreement creates a new international bargaining framework between the World Leagues Forum (WLF) – representing 44 national professional football leagues comprising some 1,100 clubs – and FIFPRO, the global footballers’ union – representing more than 60,000 professional football players as employees in the international football industry, through 66 national player unions in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, and Oceania.

Employer and employee representatives signed the Global Labour Agreement (GLA) for professional footballers (the sport is referred to as soccer in the United States), agreeing to take greater responsibility in finding collective solutions to the challenges facing the industry.

The pact acknowledges that collectively agreed upon standards, will improve labour relations in the professional game, and improve the multi-billion dollar sport’s viability and growth.

Setting ground rules

The agreement will provide a platform for discussing rules for protecting players’ health and safety along with a commitment to improve the representation and involvement of domestic leagues, their member clubs and players’ unions.

Moreover, it recognizes the need for greater representation and consideration for women’s football – including issues related to domestic competitions, clubs, and players.

Negotiations may also include issues such as employment standards, concussion management, measures to tackle discrimination and racism – including on social media – and other forms of abuse.

Under the GLA, ILO may be asked to provide expert advice in areas where it has expertise, including implementation of the agreement.

Football has the power to inspire and unite people of all nationalities and walks of life, irrespective of gender and ethnicity,” upheld the ILO chief, adding that the players “need to be protected by the fundamental principles and rights at work.”

More on the agreement

The GLA follows the fundamental principles and rights at work set out by ILO in the 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, which was amended in 2022.

It is also in line with the Points of Consensus of the ILO Global Dialogue Forum on Decent Work in the World of Sport (2020).

Specific reference is also made to the ILO Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87)  and the ILO Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98) .

The International Labour Organization has welcomed the signing of the first ever Global Labour Agreement (GLA) covering the working conditions and rights of professional football (soccer) players.

© Marcel Crozet
The International Labour Organization has welcomed the signing of the first ever Global Labour Agreement (GLA) covering the working conditions and rights of professional football (soccer) players.

Forced out of school, but refusing to give up on education in Afghanistan

year after the Taliban takeover, 17-year-old Mursal Fasihi is still in disbelief that she cannot go back to school. Once a dedicated student, Ms. Fasihi – like all girls of secondary school age – has been unable to return to the classroom due to rules imposed by the country’s de facto leadership.

“It is not right that they are deciding for us, ordering us to go with mahram [a male companion], that we should hide our faces, and stop going to school,” she says, referring to the series of directives that have effectively restricted women and girls from participating in public life.

The last time Ms. Fasihi saw the inside of a school was when she took her final examination for 11th grade in July 2021. A month later, the Taliban swept across Afghanistan, which ended with the fall of Kabul on 15 August.

‘I miss my friends, my teachers and my school’

Some of her friends were able to leave Afghanistan and are now continuing their education overseas. “I really miss my friends, my teachers, and my school. My school was a great place but now I can’t go there,” she says.

Her dreams of becoming a doctor are now uncertain. But her hope will not be extinguished. To fill her time and still feel productive, Ms. Fasihi joined the Youth Peer Educators Network (Y-PEER), a regional initiative led by and for youth, supported by the UN reproductive health agency, UNFPA.

Y-PEER focuses on building young people’s life skills to deal with the challenges that they face. Ms. Fasihi joined a training session last July and is now one of the 25 trainers for Y-PEER in Afghanistan.

The training opened her eyes to various issues young Afghans face on a daily basis. As an educated young woman in the city of Kabul, she had not realized how many girls, especially young girls living in poverty or in remote areas, suffer from negative experiences such as early marriage and adolescent pregnancy.

An unprecedented increase in poverty

The unprecedented increase in poverty, resulting from the economic crisis that came with the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan, has brought to the fore discussions about these concerns. Out of desperation, many families have resorted to marrying off their young daughters, offloading responsibility for their care and protection.

“It is sad because how can a child bring another child into this world and raise them?” Ms. Fasihi points out. “At our age, we are just children. We should be studying, aiming for great things. It’s not time for us to get married yet.”

Waiting for the dark cloud to pass

Although Ms. Fasihi’s desire for a formal education is on hold indefinitely, she finds meaning and purpose in being a peer educator for others.

In addition to teaching youth about the harms of early marriage and adolescent pregnancy, she is able to share her hope for a better future.

“When the dark cloud passes, we will see a bright morning,” she told UNFPA.

“I hope that young girls will not give up. It is ok to be scared, it is ok to cry, but giving up is not an option. I hope they will continue learning in any way they can. Inshallah, maybe someone will help us, or the schools will reopen,” she said. “Our bright morning will come.”

Colombia’s ‘dinosaur of peace’

Researchers now know that, around 175 million years ago, a 12-metre long sauropod, roamed around an area of northern Colombia. The scientific world is attributing the discovery of this new species of herbivorous dinosaur to the improved security situation that exists in Colombia since the signing of a 2016 peace deal, which put an end to half a century of civil war.

Just two years after the signing of the agreement, it was deemed safe for a group of researchers from the Universidad del Norte, Barranquilla, and the University of Michigan, United States, to visit the Serranía del Perijá, and gather fresh data.

Professor Aldo Rincón and his guide, Pedro Pablo Contreras, conducting fieldwork in the Serranía del Perijá mountain range.

© Marcos Guevara
Professor Aldo Rincón and his guide, Pedro Pablo Contreras, conducting fieldwork in the Serranía del Perijá mountain range.

Searching for clues, 80 years on

The scientists returned to the place where a fossil of a dinosaur dorsal spine vertebra was found by a geologist working for an oil company in 1943. At the time no-one knew that it was part of a brand-new species and, after the find, the fossil was taken, along with some sediment samples, to the United States and given to the University of California scientific collection at Berkeley.

Aldo Rincón Burbano, professor at the Department of Physics and Geosciences at the Universidad del Norte in Barranquilla and one of the research leaders in Colombia, acknowledged that “without the security conditions provided in the area today, it would have been difficult to return to the field. This is due to the Peace Agreement.”

Those security conditions are monitored by the UN Verification Mission in Colombia, which was established by the Security Council in 2017 to support the progress of the Peace Agreement, and verify the reintegration of former combatants of the FARC-EP rebel group and their families into Colombian society.

Félix Arango, a 64-year-old former FARC combatant, was one of Professor Aldo Rincón's guides at the ETCR in Tierra Grata.

© UNVMC/Jorge Quintero
Félix Arango, a 64-year-old former FARC combatant, was one of Professor Aldo Rincón’s guides at the ETCR in Tierra Grata.

From fighter to guide

Former FARC-EP fighters provided logistical services, lodging, and guides for the researchers, as they tried to locate the site where the fossil had been unearthed some 80 years earlier.

Félix Arango, a 64-year-old former FARC-EP combatant who now works on an ecotourism project in Tierra Grata, accompanied them on long walks, searching for the exact spot. “I didn’t know they were looking for a dinosaur because they were studying rocks; luckily I was familiar with the area because the former 41st front of the FARC operated there”.

“We spent almost a year in the process, writing and searching, and although we didn’t find any new fossils, we managed to get to the site and find the same sediment collected alongside the vertebra in 1943”, says Mr. Rincón. “By studying the sediment, we were able to conclude that the vertebra was from a new genus, and a new species.”

They named the species Perijasaurus lapaz: the first part after the place where it was found, and the second as a tribute to the historic Peace Agreement. The dinosaur is similar to other sauropods of this period found in Asia, North Africa, and southern Patagonia, which were smaller than the later dinosaurs belonging to this group.

“We still must look for more fossils in rocks of the same age in other areas of the country. Including the Tatacoa desert in Huila; the Girón area in Santander; and Nobsa in Boyacá,”, says Mr. Rincón.

Mr. Arango, the former combatant who accompanied Mr. Rincón and his team, says that, hopefully, these other investigations can also tell the story of the experience of former combatants, who now, thanks to peace, play a different role in society.

Afghanistan: UN repeats call for Taliban to allow girls full access to school

In a strong personal appeal, the UN Secretary-General tweeted on Sunday that the past 12 months represented “a year of lost knowledge and opportunity that they will never get back”.

Echoing Mr. Guterrres’s call, the UN Mission there repeated its demand for the ban to be overturned immediately.

Markus Potzel, acting head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), described the anniversary on Sunday as “a tragic, shameful, and entirely avoidable” development.

The ongoing exclusion of girls from secondary school classes “has no credible justification and has no parallel anywhere in the world,” Mr. Potzel said.

A lost generation

He added that the decision – taken soon after Taliban fighters rapidly overran Kabul last August – had been “profoundly damaging to a generation of girls and to the future of Afghanistan”.

When Afghanistan’s high schools reopened to boys on 18 September last year, the newly installed Taliban rulers issued an order for girls aged 12 to 18, to remain at home, impacting grades seven to 12.

It’s estimated that more than one million girls have been barred from attending high school lessons over the past year, despite international condemnation and promises from the authorities that the situation would be remedied.

Window of opportunity narrowing

“The UN yet again calls upon the Taliban to reverse the slew of measures they have introduced restricting Afghan women and girls’ enjoyment of their basic rights and freedoms,” said Mr. Potzel, who is also the UN Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan.

The window of opportunity may be narrowing, but we urge them to take concrete steps – such as actively enabling girls to return to high school – that can lift Afghanistan up and give hope to its people.”

The Afghan expert and veteran diplomat – who recently served as Ambassador of Germany to Afghanistan – insisted that the onus was on the Taliban “to create favourable conditions for peace, inclusion, security, human rights and economic recovery”.

And he added that the international community “remains ready” to support a government represented “all its people and respects their rights”.

Education transformation needed for ‘inclusive, just and peaceful world’ – UN chief

“I regard myself as a lifelong student…Without education, where would I be? Where would any of us be?”, he asked those gathered in the iconic Generally Assembly Hall.  

Because education transforms lives, economies and societies, “we must transform education”.  

Downward spiral 

Instead of being the great enabler, the UN chief pointed out that education is fast becoming “a great divider”, noting that some 70 per cent of 10-year-olds in poor countries are unable to read and are “barely learning”. 

With access to the best resources, schools and universities, the rich get the best jobs, while the poor – especially girls – displaced people, and students with disabilities, face huge obstacles to getting the qualifications that could change their lives, he continued.  

Meanwhile, COVID-19 has “dealt a hammer blow to progress on SDG4”, the Sustainable Development Goal targeting equitable quality education. 

“But the education crisis began long before – and runs much deeper”, Mr Guterres added, citing the International Commission on the Future of Education report card, which clearly stated: “Education systems don’t make the grade”.  

Failing grade

Dependent upon outdated and narrow curricula, under-trained and underpaid teachers, and rote learning, he maintained that “education is failing students and societies”.

At the same time, the digital divide penalizes poor students as the education financing gap “yawns wider than ever”.  

“Now is the time to transform education systems”, underscored the UN chief.

21st century vision

With a new 21st century education vision taking shape, he flagged that quality learning must support the development of the individual learner throughout their life.

“It must help people learn how to learn, with a focus on problem-solving and collaboration…provide the foundations for learning, from reading, writing and mathematics to scientific, digital, social and emotional skills…develop students’ capacity to adapt to the rapidly changing world of work…[and] be accessible to all from the earliest stages and throughout their lives”.

At a time of rampant misinformation, climate denial and attacks on human rights, Mr. Guterres stressed the need for education systems that “distinguish fact from conspiracy, instill respect for science, and celebrate humanity in all its diversity”.

From vision to reality

Children sit in a circle with their teacher at the Early Child Development centre in Garin Badjini village, south east Nigeria.

© UNICEF/Giacomo Pirozzi
Children sit in a circle with their teacher at the Early Child Development centre in Garin Badjini village, south east Nigeria.

To make the vision a reality, he highlighted five commitment areas beginning with protecting the right to quality education for everyone, everywhere – especially girls and those in crisis hotspots.

Emphasizing that schools must be open to all, without discrimination, he appealed to the Taliban in Afghanistan: “Lift all restrictions on girls’ access to secondary education immediately”.

As “the lifeblood of education systems,” Mr. Guterres next called for a new focus on the roles and skillsets of teachers to facilitate and promote learning rather than merely transmitting answers.

Third, he advocated for schools to become “safe, healthy spaces, with no place for violence, stigma or intimidation”.

To achieve the fourth target, that the digital revolution benefits all learners, he encouraged governments to work with private sector partners to boost digital learning content.

Financial solidarity

“None of this will be possible without a surge in education financing and global solidarity”, said the UN chief, introducing his final priority.

He urged countries to protect education budgets and funnel education spending into learning resources.  

Education financing must be the number one priority for Governments. It is the single most important investment any country can make in its people and its future,” spelled out the Secretary-General. “Spending and policy advice should be aligned with delivering quality education for all”.

‘Global movement’

In closing, he stated that the Transforming Education Summit will only achieve its global goals by mobilizing “a global movement”.

“Let’s move forward together, so that everyone can learn, thrive and dream throughout their lives. Let’s make sure today’s learners and future generations can access the education they need, to create a more sustainable, inclusive, just and peaceful world for all”.

War, sickness, economic development

Catherine Russell, who heads the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) drew attention to the effect of war on children’s education, calling on governments to “scale up support to help every child learn, wherever they are”.

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS, highlighted the devastating impact of HIV on adolescent girls and young women in Africa, informing the participants that in sub-Saharan Africa last year, 4,000 girls had been infected every week.

“This is a crisis!” she said. “Because when a girl is infected at that early age, there’s no cure for HIV, that marks the rest of their lives, their opportunities”.

She told the summit that 12 African countries have now committed to Education Plus, a bold initiative to prevent HIV infections through free universal, quality secondary education for all girls and boys in Africa, reinforced through comprehensive empowerment programmes.

Audrey Azoulay, leader of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reminded that “there can be no economic development and no peace without education,” and underscored that Afghan girls must be able to go back to school. “It is their right”, she upheld. Watch here deliver her address here.

Other luminaries

Other distinguished speakers included UN Messenger of Peace Malala Yousafzai who called on world leaders to make schools safe for girls and protect every child’s right to learn, saying that “if you are serious about creating a safe and sustainable future for children, then be serious about education”.

Somaya Faruqi, former Captain of the Afghan Girls Robotics Team avowed that every girl has a right to learn, asserting that “while our cousins and brothers sit in classrooms, me and many other girls are forced to put our dreams on hold. Every girl belongs in school”.

Newly announced UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, Vanessa Nakate, stressed the need to for all children to have access to education, as “their future depends on it”. Watch her address here.

Another highlight was a stirring musical performance by UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Angelique Kidjo, who encouraged everyone to raise their voice for transforming education.

130 countries pledge education reboot

Later in the afternoon, it was announced that more than 130 countries attending the summit, have committed to rebooting their education systems and accelerating action to end the learning crisis 

The commitments came after 115 national consultations that brought together leaders, teachers, students, civil society and other partners to gather collective recommendations on the most urgent asks.

Nearly half of the countries prioritized measures to address ​learning loss, while a third of countries committed to supporting the psycho-social well-being of both students and teachers.​ Two in three countries ​also referenced measures to offset the direct and indirect costs of education for​ economically vulnerable communities, and 75% of countries underlined the importance of ​gender-sensitive education policies in their commitments.

These statements underscored the role of education in achieving all the SDGs and linkages with the climate crises, conflict and poverty. Measures addressed COVID-19 recovery and getting back on track on the SDGs, while emphasizing the need for innovations in education to prepare the learners of today for a rapidly changing world.

Financing education, imperative for 'peaceful, prosperous, stable societies’ – UN chief

Secretary-General António Guterres, speaking alongside his Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown, drew attention to the critical issue of innovative financing for education.

He reminded that the “world is experiencing multiple crises”, and governments, businesses and families everywhere are feeling the financial strain.

Moreover, since the COVID-19 pandemic began, two-thirds of countries have cut their education budgets.

“But education is the building block for peaceful, prosperous, stable societies,” he stressed.

“Reducing investment virtually guarantees more serious crises further down the line”.

Education support needed ‘urgently’

The top UN official spelled out: “We need to get more, not less, money into education systems”.

He argued that while wealthy countries can increase funding from domestic sources, many developing nations are being hit by the cost-of-living crisis.

“They urgently need support for education,” Mr. Guterres attested.

Resource mechanism

He then spotlighted the role of the International Finance Facility for Education to get financing to lower-middle-income countries – home to 700 million children who are out of school – and to the majority of the world’s displaced and refugee children.

The UN chief told the media that the Facility is not a new fund, but a mechanism to increase the resources available to multilateral banks to provide low-cost education finance.

“In time, we expect it to grow into a $10 billion facility to educate tomorrow’s generation of young people,” he said.

“It will complement and work alongside existing tools, like the Global Partnership for Education, that provide grants and other assistance”.

Little Amal, a 12-foot-tall puppet depicting a 10 year old Syrian refugee visits Transforming Education Summit in New York, reminding that education is a basic right.

UN News/Abdelmonem Makki

The Secretary-General congratulated his Special Envoy and all the countries and institutions involved in getting the facility off the ground.

“I urge all international donors and philanthropic organizations to back it,” he said.

Taking steps forward

Earlier today Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed opened Day 2 of the Summit, “Solutions day,” by recapping the need for education transformation; equity and inclusion; a rethink of the curricula and innovation in teaching.

“But loud and clear, we need more and better financing,” she stressed. “We can’t do this with fresh air, it has to be fueled”.

She described education as “a huge ecosystem” that supports many other lofty goals and called for “a sense of urgency” in scaling up projects.

“No more pilot projects, we know exactly what to do” she said. “It’s all about taking steps forward”.

Building a future

The three-day Transforming Education Summit kicked off yesterday at UN Headquarters in New York.

It began with a day of youth-led mobilization, which included contributions from the Secretary-General, his deputy, and the President of the 77th General Assembly, Csaba Kőrösi.

Tomorrow, the UN chief will introduce his vision statement, along with world leaders, in the General Assembly Hall, as the Summit comes to a close.

Transforming Education Summit: Halt the crisis, or risk failing an entire generation

“Under resourced schools, underpaid and under-qualified teachers, over-crowded classrooms and archaic curricula are undermining our children’s ability to reach their full potential,” said Catherine Russell UNICEF Executive Director, in a press release.

Education is the future

“The trajectory of our education systems is, by definition, the trajectory of our future”, she added. “We need to reverse current trendlines or face the consequences of failing to educate an entire generation. Low levels of learning today mean less opportunity tomorrow.” 

Summit gets underway

The much-anticipated Transforming Education Summit begins at UN Headquarters in New York today, Friday, with a day of youth-led mobilization, which includes contributions from the Secretary-General and his deputy, together with the President of the General Assembly.

Saturday has been billed as “solutions day”, led by UN deputy chief Amina Mohammed, and on Monday, UN chief António Guterres will introduce his vision statement, along with world leaders, in the General Assembly Hall, as the summit comes to a close.

Simmering crisis

During the COVID-19 pandemic, prolonged school closures and a lack of access to quality learning exposed and exacerbated a pre-existing learning crisis, that has left millions of schoolchildren without foundational numeracy and literacy skills.

To draw attention to the education crisis and the need to transform learning worldwide, UNICEF has created the ‘Learning Crisis Classroom’, a model classroom that represents the scale of children failing to learn critical foundational skills.

The installation will be displayed at the visitor’s entrance of UN Headquarters in New York between 16 and 26 September. The model will serve as a reminder to government officials, heads of state and everyday visitors of the urgent need for mass global investment in education.

A view of UNICEF’s Learning Crisis Classroom installation at UN Headquarters in New York, September 2022.

© UNICEF//Chris Farber
A view of UNICEF’s Learning Crisis Classroom installation at UN Headquarters in New York, September 2022.

Classroom divide

A third of the desks in the model classroom are made of wood and are fully functioning with an iconic UNICEF backpack placed on the school chair behind it.

This group is meant to represent the estimated one-third of 10-year-olds globally who are able to read and understand a simple written story.

The remaining two-thirds of desks are almost invisible and made of clear material to signify the 64 per cent of children estimated to be unable to read and understand a simple written story by age 10.

The invisible nature of these desks corresponds to the short term crisis at play, said UNICEF, but also signifies the scope of civic contributions that will be lost, if urgent action is not taken to give all students the tools to thrive.

Catching up

As leaders meet at the Transforming Education Summit, UNICEF is calling on governments to commit to reaching all children with quality education.

The agency further urges new effort and investment to re-enroll and retain all children in school, to increase access to remedial and catchup learning, to support teachers – and give them the tools they need – and to make sure that schools provide a safe and supportive environment so all children are ready to learn.

This scheme, promoted by UNICEF under the acronym ‘RAPID,’ represents efforts by the international community to take legitimate steps to promote better education and unlock the potential of millions of children.

More updates to come on the opening of the summit, later in the day…

Reimagining education in Bosnia and Herzegovina: A Resident Coordinator Blog

“When I was first appointed as United Nations Resident Coordinator two and a half years ago, it was clear to many that beyond the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic, the education system was managing complex and longstanding obstacles, including a highly decentralised education sector, outdated infrastructure, and decreasing numbers of students.

These obstacles were contributing to educational challenges across the country. For example, in 2018, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) assessment found that 15-year-old students from Bosnia and Herzegovina were well below the reading, mathematics, and science proficiency of the (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) OECD average, even though there is relatively high spending per student relative to the country’s Gross Domestic Product. 

Ingrid Macdonald, UN Resident Coordinator in Bosnia-Herzegovina

UNICEF BiH/Adnan Bubalo
Ingrid Macdonald, UN Resident Coordinator in Bosnia-Herzegovina

From crisis to opportunity

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the learning of more than 400,000 students across Bosnia and Herzegovina which brought these challenges to light. Yet, it also gave the UN a once-in-a-generation opportunity to support the authorities with educational reform across the country. 

As the pandemic unfolded in 2020, the United Nations agencies in Bosnia and Herzegovina came together to prioritize education as a focus of our COVID-19 recovery efforts. A quick needs assessment in March-April 2020 by the UN children’s agency (UNICEF) and the UN education, culture, and science agency (UNESCO) was the basis for framing a United Nations education recovery programme.

The cornerstone, a joint project, was launched under the leadership of UNICEF and UNESCO, in partnership with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and UN Volunteers (UNV), called ‘Reimagine Education for Marginalized Boys and Girls during and post COVID-19’. 

The project was one of only 18 projects globally to receive support from the United Nations Secretary-General’s COVID-19 Recovery Fund, and the only one that focused on the education sector. More importantly, this project was a catalyst for reinforcing United Nations support to the authorities to strengthen cooperation among government ministries, improve teaching capacities, modernize ICT equipment, and develop new digital learning platforms. 

The immediate impact was clear. Between February 2021 and March 2022, UNICEF, UNESCO, and ILO provided 2,498 teachers with training on digital learning and teaching, whilst also providing 664 digital devices (laptops and assistive technology) to 110 schools (26 per cent of overall number of schools). 

Towards shared education commitments

As the emergency phase of COVID retreated, it became clear that the learning resources, training and equipment provided by the United Nations had helped enhance the collaboration between the country’s numerous education ministries and other stakeholders.

Building on this sense of synergy and cooperation, in the lead up to the Transforming Education Summit, under the coordination leadership of the Ministry of Civil Affairs, and in excellent cooperation with Entities, Cantons and Brcko district, the United Nations in Bosnia and Herzegovina convened a series of three pre-Summit consultations with almost 1500 participants from governmental and non-governmental sectors, schools, academia, youth and the private sector.

More than half of the participants (845) involved in the consultations were under the age of 30. After a summer of inclusive dialogue and discussion, the education authorities submitted a Report and Declaration of Commitment to the Transformation Education Summit Secretariat in New York. 

This declaration was adopted by the 16 Ministers responsible for education affairs at the various governing levels in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It represents the first country-wide policy position on education endorsed in twenty years.

As we move forward, UNESCO and UNICEF are working in support of the relevant education authorities to develop an action plan focused on implementing the commitments outlined in the Declaration. 

The value of our joint efforts to transform and unite the education agenda across Bosnia and Herzegovina has been also recognized by partners. As part of the European Union’s extensive support to Bosnia and Herzegovina, the EU is considering a stronger engagement to support education over the next 10 years, with UNESCO and UNICEF actively supporting the identification of education-related priorities. 

The path to long-lasting transformation

As we prepare for an exciting week of dialogue, discussion, and commitments during the Transforming Education Summit in New York, I feel proud of the steps we have taken to support the authorities with reform of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s education sector and to build a more inclusive, high-quality and relevant learning experience for all. 

Whilst Bosnia and Herzegovina still faces many challenges in its path towards quality of education, I’ve learnt over the last two years that, with clear global leadership, backed by catalytic pooled funding, and genuine partnership across the United Nations with the authorities, we are now uniquely placed in Bosnia and Herzegovina to deliver on these once-in-a generation transformative educational changes.”

The Transforming Education Summit

  • The Transforming Education Summit takes place on Friday 16, Saturday 17 and Monday 19 September.
  • Friday 16 September is “Mobilization Day”, which will be youth-led and youth-organized, bringing young people’s concerns over their education to decision and policymakers, and will focus on mobilizing the global public, youth, teachers, civil society and others, to support the transformation of education across the world.
  • Saturday 17 September is all about solutions, and is designed to be a platform for initiatives that will contribute to transforming education. The day is grouped around five themes (“Thematic Action Tracks”): inclusive, equitable, safe and healthy schools; learning and skills for life; work and sustainable development; teachers, teaching and the teaching profession; digital learning and transformation; and financing of education.
  • Monday 19 September, is Leaders Day, capitalizing on the fact that so many Heads of State and Government will be descending on New York that week. Expect a host of National Statements of Commitment from these leaders.

INTERVIEW: Transform education, and avoid a global learning crisis

Many education experts worry that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused untold damage to the education prospects of children around the world, exacerbating problems of falling standards that already existed, with millions of children receiving minimal, inadequate education, or no education at all.

Leonardo Garnier, Special Advisor to the Transforming Education Summit
Leonardo Garnier, Special Advisor to the Transforming Education Summit, by Marco Bassano

In the days before the Transforming Education Summit, UN News met Leonardo Garnier, an academic and former education minister in Costa Rica, who was appointed by the UN Secretary-General as Special Advisor for the Summit.

He explained why going back to the old ways of teaching is not an option, and how the UN can help to bring fresh ideas to classrooms around the world and raise educational standards for children everywhere.

UN News The UN is tackling so many big geopolitical issues right now, such as the climate crisis, the pandemic, and the war in Ukraine. Why has education been chosen as key theme this year?

Leonardo Garnier It’s precisely the right time to do it, because when there’s an economic slowdown, what usually happens is that education goes under the table: it ceases to be a priority. Governments need money, and they stop spending on education.

The problem here is that the damage this causes is only apparent after several years. If you take the Eighties education crisis, it wasn’t until the Nineties and 2000s that you started to see how countries had lost out because of a lack of educational investment.

Millions of children were left out of school because of the pandemic. But the pandemic also brought out what had been happening for years, because many of those who were in school were not really learning properly.

UN News Talk us through the 1980s educational crisis. What happened, and what were the consequences?

Leonardo Garnier What you saw in many parts of the world was stagflation, and a huge reduction in education budgets. Enrolment rates fell, teacher numbers fell, and many children missed out on education, particularly high school education.

And what that meant is that, in many countries, only around half the labour force finished primary school. When you look at increasing poverty, and increasing inequality in many countries, it is very difficult not to relate that to the reduced educational opportunities of the Eighties and Nineties.

A family sit inside their home, in an informal settlement for internally displaced people in Kabul, Afghanistan.

© UNICEF/Veronica Houser
A family sit inside their home, in an informal settlement for internally displaced people in Kabul, Afghanistan.

UN News Do you think that what we’re seeing now is going to potentially lead to a repeat of that situation?

Leonardo Garnier That could happen. From 2000 to 2018 we saw increases in school enrolment rates in most countries, and in educational investment. From then on, educational budgets started to be reduced, and then the pandemic hit.

And then what you have is really two years in which education stopped in many countries, alongside an economic crisis. So yes, there is a risk that, instead of recovering from the pandemic, we could be in an even worse position than we were in 2019.

What the Secretary General is saying is that we have to protect education from this big hit, and recover what we lost in this pandemic. But we actually have to go further.

With SDG 4 [the Sustainable Development Goal to improve access to quality education for all], the UN and global community have set themselves very ambitious targets.

You might think that everybody should have the right to education but, if we keep doing things as they were being done prior to the pandemic, we won’t get there. 

At the Transforming Education Summit, we want to send the message that, if we really want every young person in this planet to have the right to a quality education, we have to do things differently.

We have to transform schools, the way teachers teach, the way we use digital resources, and the way we finance education.

A girl studies online at home in Abidjan in Côte d'Ivoire.

©UNICEF/ Frank Dejongh
A girl studies online at home in Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire.

UN News What is your vision for an education system that is fit for the Twenty-First Century?

Leonardo Garnier It has to do with the content, with what we teach and the relevance of education.

On one side, we need the fundamental building blocks of education – literacy, numeracy, scientific thinking – but we also need what some people have called the Twenty-First Century skills. Social skills, problem solving skills.

Teachers need to impart knowledge by sparking curiosity, helping students to solve problems and guiding students through the learning process. But, to do that, teachers need better training, better working conditions, and better wages, because in many countries, the pay for teachers is very low.

They need to understand that their authority does not come from merely having more information than their students, but from their experience and capacity to lead the learning process.

In any labour activity, productivity results in part from the tools we use. When we talk about education, we’ve been using the same tools for around 400 years! With the digital revolution, teachers and learners could have access to much more creative tools for teaching and learning. 

At the Summit, we’re saying that digital resources are what economists call a public good: they require a lot of investment to be produced, and they are not cheap, but once they are produced, everybody could use them. 

We want digital learning resources to be transformed into public goods, so that every country can share their own resources with other countries. For example, teachers from Argentina could share content with teachers from Spain; Egypt has a lovely digital education project that could be shared with many other Arab countries.

The potential is there, but we need to bring everything together into a partnership for digital learning resources. This is something else that we are calling for at the Summit.

The Transforming Education Summit

  • The Transforming Education Summit takes place on Friday 16, Saturday 17 and Monday 19 September.
  • Friday 16 September is “Mobilization Day”, which will be youth-led and youth-organized, bringing young people’s concerns over their education to decision and policymakers, and will focus on mobilizing the global public, youth, teachers, civil society and others, to support the transformation of education across the world.
  • Saturday 17 September is all about solutions, and is designed to be a platform for initiatives that will contribute to transforming education. The day is grouped around five themes (“Thematic Action Tracks”): inclusive, equitable, safe and healthy schools; learning and skills for life; work and sustainable development; teachers, teaching and the teaching profession; digital learning and transformation; and financing of education.
  • Monday 19 September, is Leaders Day, capitalizing on the fact that so many Heads of State and Government will be descending on New York that week. Expect a host of National Statements of Commitment from these leaders.

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