“I believe that it is no longer enough for us to pay lip service to education; now is the time to insist on transparency and accountability in education,” said Victoria Ibiwoye, youth representative of the SDG Education 2030 Steering Committee from Nigeria.
Less than five days after the launch of the youth version of the GEM Report, Victoria joined Dr Koumbou Boly Barry, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, the GEM Report Director Manos Antoninis, and fellow youth ambassadors Helge Schwitters and Dylan Barry for a digital launch event. The 2017/8 Youth Report addresses the theme of accountability in education and the role of students in upholding and championing the right to education.
“We are joined here today by a wonderful group of young activists for education,” said Dr Bolly Barry as she opened the event. She spoke of the importance for all youth to advocate for the right to education, to raise awareness among their peers that they have this right, and to empower them to claim it.
Speaking at the event, the GEM Report’s Director Manos Antoninis highlighted the importance of having an active, informed and engaged youth movement as crucial for holding governments to account for providing equitable quality education. He spoke of the GEM Report’s Right to Education campaign, which is asking campaigners to sign up to help make sure the right to education is enforceable in all countries. “Citizens should be able to take their governments to court if they violate this right. If they can’t, a vital backstop in accountability is missing”.
During the hour-long discussion, the GEM Report’s youth ambassadors shared their firsthand experience of advocating and campaigning for the right to education at the local, national, regional and international levels.
As those “with the most to lose and the most to gain”, said the GEM Report’s youth advisor Salam Al-Nukta, students play a key role in making governments accountable by speaking out when their rights are violated, by organising and mobilising through protest and by lobbying Ministers and policy makers to demand change.
Helge Schwitters President of the European Student’s Union discussed the importance of student unions and councils in championing the right to education at the national and regional level. “Students unions allow students to play an active role in education decision making which goes all the way up to the highest level” explained Schwitters, who also identified some of the challenges facing student unions as they attempt to tackle issues such as increasing costs, shifting funding and equity within higher education provision.
The importance of youth being at the heart of the international agenda setting processes and shaping action to increase political commitment for education was highlighted by the newly appointed youth representative for the SDG-Education 2030 Steering Committee, Victoria Ibiwoye. She highlighted the importance of youth voices within bodies such as the SDG–Education 2030 Steering Committee to demand from governments to address challenges in access and quality in education globally.
“Education is far too important to be left solely to the government or educational institutions. We have a call as youth leaders to work hand-in-hand to ensure that education is at the heart of the sustainable development agenda,” concluded Victoria.
The role of students in South Africa’s largest student protest since the 1970’s, the 2015 #FeesMustFall protests, was explained by the youth activist Dylan Barry who headed up the movement’s News Media task team in 2015. #FeesMustFall, was a series of mass protests on a national scale sought to address the systemic problems facing South African university campuses. The use of social media throughout the protests contributed to improving the coordination and communication amongst students, said Dylan. Through sharing photos, video and real time footage with media, the protests were able to gain international coverage, and have a lasting impact on the landscape of education funding in South Africa.
The discussion ended with an impassioned call to action from the Special Rapporteur who labelled the GEM Report’s #WhosAccountable campaign “a fantastic opportunity for youth to come together and demand action for change. I encourage you all to visit the campaign website, sign the petition, get involved online, and share your voice through the video campaign. For my part, I promise to do what I can as Special Rapporteur for the Right to Education to share these messages with decision makers and governments worldwide. Together I believe we can make real progress towards our global education goal.”
Tuesday’s digital launch was the forerunner of a series of national and international launches organized by GEM Report partners worldwide including the upcoming Winter Youth Assembly at the United Nations and the 20th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers Partners Forum held in Fiji in February 2018.