Global Campaign for Education VI World Assembly – Speech by Camilla Croso, GCE President

Your Excellency United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, Ms. Amina Mohammed; Your Excellency Mr. Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nepal, Mr. Pradeep Gyawali; Dear Director of the United Nations Girls ́ Education Initiative, Ms. Nora Fyles; Dear President of the National Campaign for Education – Nepal, Kumar Bhattarai; Dear ASPBAE President, Nani Zulminarni; Dear Monique Fouilhoux, Chair of the Board of the Global Campaign for Education; Dear friends, of shared dreams and fights from 87 countries around the world:

Namastê. It is an honor and a pleasure to be with you this morning, in Kathmandu, Nepal, where we have been so warmly welcomed, amidst the highest mountain range on the planet and its sacred mountains. I would like to express my gratitude to both the National Campaign for Education Nepal and ASPBAE for their attention with each one of us, and for the work they have done and will do in the coming days. Dear Amina Mohammed, what an honor and joy to have you with us. Thank you for your strong commitment to economic, social and environmental justice as well as to human rights, for your decisive contribution in the definition of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and for your generosity with our Campaign.

This is a time for celebration: we are more than 300 representatives of teachers’ unions, students ́ organisations, human rights activists and social movements, national and international non-governmental organisations – acting together for the right to a free, inclusive public education for all, at the service of social justice. We celebrate being together, the journey that we have started almost 20 years ago, the network that we have weaved, the roots and grassroot articulation, and our achievements reflected in concrete changes in the lives of millions of people, the obstacles that we have overcome, the solidarity that we have been cultivating, the learning that we have consolidated and shared, and the friendships that flourish. Our history reflects a fundamental maturity, allowing us to face increasingly complex and challenging scenarios. This Assembly marks the beginning of our 20th anniversary, which we will celebrate next year. In the coming months, we will give visibility to the history of our network and to your stories, making our legacy known and valued by all of us and by broad sectors of society across all continents.

The Global Campaign for Education came to make history: it was launched in 1999 through the weaving of an initial network encompassing Education International, the Global March against Child Labor, ActionAid International and Oxfam Novib, as well as the National Campaigns for the Right to Education of Bangladesh and Brazil, making it clear from the outset its commitment to building network with a strong base. This took place in Senegal, on the eve of the Dakar World Education Forum, in 2000. Even at this early stage, the Campaign was already actively participating in the debates, as well as in the drafting committee of the Dakar Framework for Action and its Education for All Goals. Many of us present here today were there: David Archer, Monique Fouilhoux, Frans Roselaers, Rasheda Choudhury, Maria Khan, myself, and so many others who are not with us today but still inspire us. It is the case of our first President, Kailash Satyarthi, now Nobel Peace Laureate, as well as Elie Jouen, a historic member of Education International who passed away in 2016 and who I would like to honor today. During one of our last encounters, as he reflected on the ways ahead for our Global Campaign, he invited us to always be ready to reinvent itself.

Today our Campaign has members in around 100 countries, having expanded its linguistic diversity as well as that of its actors, always within the field of human rights. In the last two days, we have held our first Youth Caucus, integrated by student and youth representatives that are part of our national coalitions as well as of other member organisations, and who thus are already part of our network. This Caucus is an important milestone, as it strengthens our relationship with these actors and because it points to our renewal as a movement. While the Global Campaign was born in the context of the World Education for All Forum in 2000, another key milestone was the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Education Agenda, in 2015. There is no doubt that this was a landmark, culminating three years of intense intersectoral negotiations. For the education sector, this was reason for celebration. We were able to approve an education agenda based on the perspective of human rights, broad and holistic, ensuring 12 years of free education, that ranged from early childhood to higher education, including youth and adult education. As in 2000, the Global Campaign participated in the Drafting Committee of the 2030Education Agenda, actively negotiating and debating principles as well as the wording of the texts. The SDGs were and will continue to be a unique opportunity to engage in dialogue and intersectoral analysis, including establishing relations with actors from beyond the field of education.

Reflecting the broadness of the 2030Education Agenda, it is worth mentioning that, since 1999, the thematic repertoire of the Global Campaign has expanded significantly. The struggle for adequate national funding and robust international cooperation- where donor countries national education coalitions have contributed decisively- marks our trajectory, and in recent years this struggle has gained important contours. The Campaign has been pushing States to commit to scaling up public funding for public education, achieving at least 6% of GDP so that it can be strengthened and provided free of charge, in line with the right to education principles. Members of our campaign have been constantly striving to monitor budget spending, ensuring its quality and full implementation. The national coalitions of Zimbabwe, Senegal, Palestine and Nepal have been working in this sense and showing striking results; in the same way, the development of a regional platform to monitor the financing of education in Latin American & the Caribbean has allowed us to foster debate, raise awareness as well as public pressure for increased education financing in the region. This struggle has become increasingly complex given the growing trend of multiple forms of privatisation in and of education, as well as the primacy of profit over the fulfillment of the right. All our members have been energetic against the privatisation of education, elaborating research, raising public awareness, denouncing the actors that promote it, as well as its negative consequences, working to reverse processes in countries such as the Philippines, Ghana and Chile, as well as engaging with human rights committees, parliamentarians and the media. In addition, GCE has drawn attention to the problem of educational indebtedness in countries, a regressive practice that has resurged strongly in recent years which seeks to be naturalised in the international educational agenda by some actors. This trend marks a significant setback. In the face of this and of cases of severe declines in educational budgets, the Campaign has been working both to strengthen international cooperation and tax justice mechanisms at the national level (Bangladesh, Zambia and Sierra Leone), and international level (G20 and United Nations). Other key issues have drawn our attention over time, such as inclusive education and the overcoming of multiple forms of discrimination in and through education. Fundamentally, we call for an education that practices and promotes human rights, being capable of breaking unequal power relations that perpetuate oppression and subjection. Our members have done a great deal of work on these matters, especially with regards to the struggle for gender equality, LGBTI’s and people with disabilities’ rights. The latter has succeeded greater visibility in the public agenda and increased prioritisation due to the work done by activists in this field, although still much more needs to be done. Regarding gender equality, although there appears to be a consensus on the importance of this issue, including through the adoption of international human rights treaties and the Sustainable Development Goal 5, we see a growing setback especially in Latin America and Caribbean, with public authorities and broad social sectors demanding the withdrawal of any reference to gender in schools, as well as of comprehensive sexuality education, both of which are fundamental issues for overcoming patriarchy, for the prevention of sexual violence and for ensuring sexual and reproductive rights of girls and women. We will remain alert and vigilant against these regressive trends, and in this sense, the cases shared by colleagues from Bolivia, Mozambique, and Pakistan during our learning event inspire us.

Undoubtedly, curricular contents and pedagogical practices are disputed in schools around the world, in addition to the above-mentioned gender issue. In fact, our members have focused on ensuring broad participation of the educational community in the definition of public policies and curricular designs based on a broad and humanistic vision of educational quality, seeking to resist pressures to reduce their scope and depth, whether by the influence of standardised evaluations or through the influence of f reductionist and economistic curricular approaches that value only reading, writing and mathematics to the detriment of all other areas of knowledge, artistic expressions and cultural events, or sporting.

The militarisation of schools as well as the growing influence of religious fundamentalisms which challenge secular public education, have hindered critical thinking and promoted censorship in school. In some countries, such as Brazil, public authorities have encouraged students to tell on teachers that are supposedly left-wing or who promote gender related debates. Although unconstitutional, this practice has gained space and leverage in schools. Our members have struggled against regressive and controlling legislations, and in favor of legal and political frameworks that leverage emancipatory and decolonizing education at all levels, that promotes freedom, academic autonomy, critical thinking and creativity, able to dialogue in equal settings with multiple cosmovision. We must go beyond school walls, further relating to communities and territories, promoting critical thinking with a wide range of people.

One of the policy motions presented by ActionAid in this Assembly deals precisely with these fundamental issues. The struggle for teaching valuing, for better working conditions, including salary and training, as well as for academic and research autonomy, has also been a constant in the history of the Global Campaign, counting especially with Education International. Despite an apparent consensus that teacher valuing is a pillar for the realisation of the right to education, we need to constantly press for such conditions to be fulfilled, including formative instead of punitive teacher evaluation systems, and ensuring labor laws consistent with human rights standards and decent work.

Our Global Action Weeks for Education, which take place every April, have focused on other key themes related, for example, to lifelong education. In 2009, we worked on youth and adult education while in 2012, we focused on promoting the right to early childhood care and education. Both have suffered from low prioritisation, be it regarding the curricular content, be it regarding the educational budget. Coalitions in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Albania, Vietnam and the Dominican Republic have done work of fundamental importance in the case of early childhood. In turns, coalitions in Angola, Haiti and Mongolia, as well as all regional networks that integrate the Global Campaign, have systematically contributed to give visibility and show ways forward for youth and adult education. Not least, our members have increasingly dedicated themselves to advocate for people and countries in situations of conflict, emergency, migration and refuge.

Humanitarian crises have been changing the dynamics of public policies, of national and international funding, as well as the political timing of responses. Our Campaign has supported and expressed solidarity with emergence and conflict processes such as in Yemen, Rohynga and the caravan of migrants leaving Central America towards the United States, through Mexico.

Finally, the Global Campaign for Education has always had and will always have a relentless commitment to strengthening civil society, guaranteeing its right to participation, freedom of expression and protest. In recent years, we have observed the closure of spaces for participation, as well as an increase of teacher and student’s criminalisation. Our network has given visibility of such violations to national and international human rights authorities and the media, to broaden social awareness. The struggle for greater participation of children, adolescents, youth and adults is a cornerstone of the Global Campaign for Education, and we must continue to work collectively and collaboratively in this direction.

The Global Campaign for Education has had major successes over the past years, at the national, regional and international levels, based on a holistic and strategic agenda. This Sixth World Assembly presents itself as a key opportunity to deepen our context analysis, turning our attention to the current challenges and to the actors that present themselves in this scenario, thus allowing us to determine our political priorities and strategies of action for the future. We must continue consolidating our movement, which sets the basis from which we project our ideals and horizons and promote changes, broadening our plurality and our capillarity on the ground, where we will have to promote increased reflection, dialogue and reading of the world. 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of Pedagogy of the Oppressed, seminal book of the educator Paulo Freire. On this occasion it is worth recalling one of his many important statements, that underlines the reading of the world must precede the reading of the word. Our understanding of the world is an indispensable condition for the transforming action we pursue, enabling us to be creative, purposeful and effective in promoting a more just and dignified world for all.

Leave a Reply