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Qatar Launches Global Initiative on Education

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 14 2012 (IPS) - Sheikha Moza bint Nasser of Qatar Wednesday launched a global initiative aimed at delivering “ real progress” towards the goal of bringing quality primary education to the world’s children.

With 61 million children worldwide still deprived of their fundamental right to education, the “Educate A Child” (EAC) initiative will be partnering with the world’s most expert organisations to bring high quality learning to children affected by extreme poverty, conflict, natural disaster, prejudice, or any of the factors that can make them hard to reach by conventional means.

Addressing the World Innovation Summit on Education (WISE) in the Qatari capital, Sheikha Moza said: “Educate A Child will reignite the world’s commitment to the hardest-to-reach children, the forgotten children. Our mission is to turn attention back to the disadvantaged children of today, who could become confident adults tomorrow, able to fulfill their potential, if we just give them the opportunity.”

At the United Nations, two UN agencies will partner with Sheikha Moza to promote education for children living under occupation and in conflict zones, as well as for vulnerable out-of-school children in in Iraq.

The partnership agreements were signed Wednesday during the summit in Doha attended by over 10,000 participants from 100 countries.

The agreement with the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) sets out a plan to advance primary education for Palestine refugee children, with a special focus on those whose access to school has been hampered by conflict.

“Vulnerable populations know best that primary education is one of the fundamental building blocks of a productive and happy life,” UNRWA’s Commissioner-General, Filippo Grandi said, adding that the new partnership recognized “the urgent needs of these children to be assisted with their education despite the deplorable conditions in which they live.”

Meanwhile, the agreement signed with the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will provide technical and institutional support to scale up the provision of quality education to vulnerable out-of-school children in Iraq. Over 18 months, the project will reach 30,000 children, half of whom are girls.

“Educate a Child goes to where the needs are greatest and operates in a spirit of partnership and national ownership,” said UNESCO’s Director-General, Irina Bokova.

“Together, working where educational deprivation runs high, where conflict has torn the social fabric, we will build the capacity of authorities and train teachers to set up and run accelerated learning programmes.”

Addressing the opening of the summit yesterday, Bokova stressed that education is becoming the big issue of the 21st century.

“If we want to bridge the gap between poverty and prosperity, between tolerance and intolerance, if we want to promote sustainable development and foster global citizenship, education has to be the priority and it is only through partnerships that we will achieve progress,” she said.

Educate a Child aims to significantly reduce the number of children worldwide missing out on their fundamental right to education, and will catalyse innovative learning solutions for the hardest-to-reach children – those affected by extreme poverty, conflict, natural disaster and prejudice.

The initiative is an extension of Sheikha Moza’s mandate as UNESCO Special Envoy on Basic and Higher Education, as a UN Millennium Development Goal Advocate, and Steering Committee member of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Education First Initiative.

Educate A Child is already supporting 25 projects in countries across Africa, Asia and the Middle East, usually on a matching funding basis.

At the time of its launch, there are already some 500,000 children in EAC funded projects. The initiative is seeking further partnerships to help many more.

Fostering innovation and creativity, it aims to share solutions that can be scaled up to reach millions of children and deliver sustainable education over the long term.

Current EAC projects range from low cost one-room schools in Indian urban slums that provide flexible learning hours in line with children’s working needs, to floating boat schools in flood-riven areas in Bangladesh, to projects working with traditional communities such as Kenya’s Maasai where education for girls is often cut short by cultural norms such as early marriage.

“Right now, millions of children are being robbed of their fundamental right to quality education,” Sheikha Moza said.

“Children in war-ravaged villages in South Sudan, or in overcrowded refugee camps in Yemen. Children living in the flooded plains of Bangladesh, or in isolated or marginalised communities in Kenya”.

She also said: “Right across the world, because of disaster, because of poverty, children are being denied a chance to change their destinies. We can change this, and because we can, we must.”


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