Youth and Student Caucus

GCE Global Youth & Student Caucus 2022 Report

Background on GCE Youth Engagement

“It is both right and timely that GCE should create the opportunities for children and youth to engage in decision making and governance structures, not only in terms of value and legitimacy but also in terms of learning from the unique perspective they can bring to our work.” (GCE Policy Resolution 2015)

Since 2018 when the amendment regarding the youth constituency and its equal representation on the board of the GCE was first voted for, there have been numerous strides towards this representation. Currently, in 2022, the board seats for the constituency for international youth and student-led organisations are represented by Martina Darmanin, nominated on behalf of the European Students’ Union (ESU) and Ester Simon, nominated on behalf of the All-African Students’ Union (AASU) –a member of the Global Student Forum. This is a historic win for the youth & student movement within the GCE.

Between 2020 and 2021, youth and students’ engagement has focused on convenings that contextualize the realities on the ground in which young people operate. Many national coalitions within the GCE membership have reported negative effects of privatization and public-private partnerships in terms of their impact on equality and the promotion of education consistent with human rights and the public good. Additionally, repression and resistance are two trends that have emerged throughout the Covid-19 crisis, particularly in relation to young people’s responses to authoritarian rule, political violence, and the repression of active citizenship among human rights defenders and civil society. Criminalisation and repression of students, youth, teachers, and human rights defenders fighting for social justice and specific issues. The criminalisation and shrinking of space for youth and student-led social justice organizing have been seen to be on the rise during this “new normal” we find ourselves facing.

As GCE grows and strengthens its youth and student engagement, it has become increasingly imperative to create spaces and platforms for youth and students to build bridges of solidarity and capacity across the membership. A fundamental goal is to create brave spaces and platforms for youth and students to lead discussions, document perspectives, co-create strategies, and develop shared agendas for education advocacy and activism within GCE. GCE heard this resounding call from youth & student activists from across the movement and acknowledged that the time is ripe to convene a gathering of youth, students, and organizational representation. With this in mind, GCE planned to host a Global Student & Youth Caucus in March 2022.

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The Role of Young People in Building Resilience to Crisis in Education Systems.

Education is undoubtedly the foundation upon which our evolution and development as human societies lie. Yet, disparities in education systems and several other social, economic, and geographical barriers continue to prevent us from achieving our goal of quality education for ALL.   With the COVID 19 pandemic outbreak in 2020, many of these barriers were exacerbated, and we saw a multi-level drawback in education systems across the world. If we are talking numbers, UNESCO estimates that about 1.25 billion students have been affected by the pandemic, presenting a critical challenge to achieving the SDGs. A significant proportion of this number will never return to school, an estimated 24 million children and youths. Eliminating the drivers of exclusion in the education system and creating resilient education systems are the two foundations upon which we must lay the work to attain the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development.

Building a resilient system of education does not only imply a system of education that can adapt to critical and risky situations but also a system within which both students and educators can thrive, learning outcomes are maintained, and social and mental impacts of difficult situations are properly managed. This requires a concerted effort of governments, civil society organizations, educators, school representatives, parents and student bodies. According to a Covid-19 Education Issue Note produced by UNESCO's section for Health and Education and the International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP), crisis and risk management should be institutionalized in education systems, and specific programmatic options can help prevent disease outbreaks and pandemics from affecting education communities.

According to UNICEF, education systems need to analyse, plan, do, review and sustain strategies in five critical but interrelated areas, which are:

  • Access to education provision
  • Qualitative and inclusive learning
  • Well-being
  • Safe Schools
  • Nutrition and School Feeding

We can develop strategies for building resilient education systems when we break these down. When we speak of access to education provision, we would need to develop new ways to redefine the meaning of classrooms. Crisis-sensitive educational planning would accommodate remote* and online learning and address the digital divide that already exists due to socioeconomic inequality. Without these, access to education would still be impossible for the majority in times of crisis.

Qualitative and inclusive learning is another pillar of resilient education systems. To achieve this, we must first and foremost identify the major drivers of exclusion in education, such as disability, gender, domestic situations, war and conflict, and diseases. Then we can go ahead and restructure our instruction strategies (pedagogy). Instructional materials should be inclusive by intent, design and content. Physical and learning disabilities should be adequately provided for in the design of learning resources and instructional materials.

As earlier mentioned, a resilient education system also refers to the ability of children, families and communities to adapt in times of crisis. It is not just sufficient for us to put learning systems in place; we must also ensure that the students are mentally, emotionally and physically healthy enough to continue getting an education. A school is not just a place for academic learning, it is also a place for emotional and social learning, support and interaction. Mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) interventions must be embedded in school systems to ensure the well-being of students and educators alike.

Similarly, safe school practices that emphasize hygiene and sanitation and education (WASH) must be improved where they already exist and introduced where absent. Such practices must also be reinforced by parents and guardians to drive home their effectiveness. As part of my work with the dRPC Safe School Movement project, we are building a coalition of local CSOs, community leaders, and schools to implement the Safe School Declaration in Nigeria and West Africa to ensure schools are safe for learning in emergency contexts.

We should not forget the gendered perspective to all the aforementioned courses of action that are critical to building a resilient educational system. A gender-responsive approach to education is a necessity, and we must find means to integrate it into education system planning, especially for times of crisis when girls are disproportionately affected. Evidence suggests that both education and gender are neglected with any disease outbreak. My experience with some of the work done in designing and implementing a gender-responsive approach to education as a gender consultant for dRPC shows us that when we put things into perspective for girls and women, we are more likely to achieve phenomenal results.

Having identified the critical areas for action, we must then look inwards to examine our role as youth in bringing all of these into implementation. As a member of Generation Unlimited’s Young People’s Action Team, I sit on an advisory board made up of over 70 young people from over 30 different countries with the express purpose of steering and strengthening GenU’s programming and strategy. I know as a YPAT that for any work benefitting youth to be sustainable and resistant to shock, young people’s real-life experiences must be embedded in every single plan and mechanism. Young people are often the most exposed to crises or conflicts. they can also be equal partners in responding to conflicts and crises.

As innovators and inventors, young people can develop the technologies that would be deployed in building our education systems. In India, for example, the local group of YPATs created a WhatsApp information campaign in response to Covid-19 misinformation that was spreading around the country. A truly youth-led solution, “Covid Warriors”, reached hundreds of thousands of people with Covid-19 prevention tips, vaccination information, and best practices to prevent the spread of the virus. As advocates, lobbyists and activists, we young people can drive the agenda of resilient education systems at the national and local levels and influence policymakers and administrators into taking a novel approach to education planning. The youths will be the ones engaging the local communities and enlightening them on their roles in providing quality and inclusive education for ALL. In fact, as youths, we need to consider taking on careers as educators to drive the reforms we need from a stakeholder's perspective.

To conclude, I would say that building a resilient educational system is not a task we are allowed to leave to policymakers alone. We need to do the work, get our hands dirty in understanding the context within which we would be working in our respective countries and communities and come up with innovative solutions. Quality and inclusive Education for ALL is a debt we owe ourselves and the generations to come and one we all must pay.

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The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2022

The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2022 provides a global overview of progress on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, using the latest available data and estimates. It tracks the global and regional progress towards the 17 Goals with in-depth analyses of selected indicators for each Goal.

According to the Report, cascading and interlinked crises are putting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in grave danger, along with humanity’s very own survival. The Report highlights the severity and magnitude of the challenges before us. The confluence of crises, dominated by COVID-19, climate change, and conflicts, are creating spin-off impacts on food and nutrition, health, education, the environment, and peace and security, affecting all the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Report details the reversal of years of progress in eradicating poverty and hunger, improving health and education, providing basic services, and much more. It also points out areas that need urgent action to rescue the SDGs and deliver meaningful progress for people and the planet by 2030.

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Voices from the GCE Movement on the Importance of Youth Skills

GCE is a firm believer in preparing Youth Today for Tomorrow’s World.

At the Transforming Education Pre-Summit in June 2022 in Paris, France, it was highlighted that the global skills crisis is a key concern – the World Economic Forum estimates that 50% of employees will need reskilling by 2025 meanwhile one billion young people are due to enter the workforce in the next decade.

Youth and Students from across the GCE movement gave voice to the importance of youth skills globally and what governments and other stakeholders should be doing to ensure they gain the necessary skills for future employability and entrepreneurship.

Voices of Youth and Students on Youth Skills

Why is investing in skills for employability and entrepreneurship important for youth?

Investments in foundational learning and life skills for employability and entrepreneurship are important, as such investments empower youth, particularly the most vulnerable populations of girls & non-binary youth, LGBTQ+ populations, children with disabilities, and individuals living in conflict-affected regions, with the self-confidence, resources, and opportunities to unlock their full potential.

Anny Lin, Student Fellow at the Global Campaign for Education-USA

Through youth skill development, there will be a sustained move toward self‐employment, which continues to be an increasingly important element of economic growth and development. Failing to invest in the youth triggers substantial economic, social, and political costs and negative outcomes such as crime and violence. Given the dire cost implications of underinvestment, policymakers have the self-interest to allocate sufficient public resources for youth development.

It is rational to think that a person who has acquired practical, value-added, solution-driven knowledge will seek a suitable position in an organization or takes up entrepreneurship. Education must therefore provide the relevant life skills needed to improve an individual's prospects for a happy, productive, fulfilling life. The youth must be prepared through the acquisition of not just content knowledge but also the skills and mindset they need to work collaboratively, solve problems they care about and handle upheaval.

The All-Africa Students Union (AASU), Ghana

Investing in youth skills allows young people to have the ability to self-promote, to know to take advantage of and create opportunities. This will make them have an appreciable position for employers and/ or funders if they intend to embrace entrepreneurship.

Vilma Chilundo, Finalist Students of Mozambique Association, MEPT Mozambique

What should be done by governments and the education sector towards life skills education for employability and entrepreneurship?

Governments and the education sector should commit robust funding and effective policies towards addressing structural inequities and strengthening free, accessible, and equitable quality, inclusive education – including foundational learning, vocational training and other life skills education opportunities – that provide all youth with innovative and adaptable skills for employability and entrepreneurship in increasingly interconnected and evolving economies.

Anny Lin, Student Fellow at the Global Campaign for Education-USA

Investing in employable and entrepreneurial skills for youth is a smart investment. In partnership with the education sector leaders, the government must outline ambitious plans to level up youth employability and entrepreneurship activities. Through youth skill development, there will be a sustained move toward self‐employment, which continues to be an increasingly important element of economic growth and development.

The All-Africa Students Union (AASU), Ghana

The government and the education sector should invest more in education, seeking to provide schools with teaching materials, promote more professional internships for students, and update training courses according to the needs of the job market. An incubator could also be created at each university for entrepreneurial students that could assist them in developing their businesses.

Vilma Chilundo, Finalist Students of Mozambique Association, MEPT Mozambique

In the rapidly changing world of work, skills are moving targets, making it increasingly difficult to match the supply and demand for them. Unemployment and inactivity are affecting youth in particular, and it is up to governments and partners to invest in providing the vocational and technical skills that are key to reducing unemployment and transforming economies.

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GCE at the Transforming Education Pre-Summit 

“Power will never be given on a silver platter. We still work in systems that are still colonialist and patriarchal, so spaces will not be easily created. The best way for youth to fight for spaces is to build coalitions, learning from experiences of other youth activists and those with access to decision-makers.” Jayathma Wickramanayake, UN Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth

Ministers and vice-ministers of education of 154 countries and nearly 2000 participants, including young activists, experts, civil society and the private sector, came together at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris from June 28th - 30th to discuss transforming education inspired by the rallying call from young people. 

GCE and civil society partners garnered momentum for the need to include youth and students in all tables and solutions as leaders. They amplified the need for increased education financing during an integral side event.  

The pre-summit sessions focused on the agenda for transforming education across the spectrum, including inclusivity, quality of learning, teachers and pedagogy, digital connectivity, the importance of emergency education and adequate and innovative financing.

It was a pivotal moment for youth and student networks and activists as UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed called on the youth to rally toward building a global movement for education transformation. The Youth Forum and Global Engagement Day on 28 June 2022 generated momentum and amplified young people's voices and ideas in decision-making. It created space for intergenerational dialogues between youth and key decision-makers, ensuring that the aspirations of young people for the future of education are brought to the forefront.

UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell emphasised the need to challenge youth and young people to be at the forefront, lamenting, "We cannot transform education for the generation without engaging that generation”.

The importance of growing digital education was also at the forefront. Sierra Leonean Minister of schooling, H.E. Mr David Sengeh, focused on the role of digital innovations and technology in transforming education and how youth can be leaders in finishing solutions to digital divides. He emphasised that connectivity should be a right, not a privilege.

Inclusivity and ensuring all voices are represented, including those of young people with disabilities, was also a key theme during the youth forum. Ms Renate Adriaansens, President of Young Feminist Ambassadors, Netherlands emphasized the perspective of youth and students with disabilities noting that “It is not disabilities that make us disabled, but rather it is accessibility in education and the need to create actual structures to address inequalities.” 

Education in Crisis and Emergency contexts was at the helm of the discussions to catalyse action for children and young people whose education is interrupted by conflict and climate emergencies. Vicky Mogeni from GCE presented on the Education in Emergencies Campaign highlighting the campaign’s approach to bringing the voices and stories of people affected, particularly young people, to the centre of the debate and ensuring education for women and girls and children with disabilities is prioritised. 

The Youth forum concluded with a presentation and overview of the Youth Declaration and paving the way for the summit in September. Ms Doris Mwikali, SDG4Youth Representative, highlighted the need to engage stakeholders outside the education sector to foster partnerships and awareness toward sustainable transformation.

Ms Jayathma Wickramanayake, UN Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth concluded with a concrete step toward youth decision-making; the Secretary General’s office plea to UN member states to include youth delegates in their national delegations at the TES summit in September and encouraged young people to hold their national governments to account on this. 

Developed by the Office of the Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth together with the TES Secretariat hosted by UNESCO, the Youth Declaration will gather young people’s views, recommendations and actions on transforming education and it will be presented to the Secretary-General as young people’s inputs to the Chair Summary of the Transforming Education Summit. 

More information about the Youth Declaration process and consultation.

Advocating for increasing financing for education is a fundamental goal of  GCE. Through a side event led by Vernor Munoz, head of policy advocacy, governments' commitment and legal obligation to fund education were lamented. Further emphasised by David Archer from Action Aid was that this is a real moment to engage youth constituencies rather than individuals in a tokenistic way.  Nafisa Baboo, Light for the World, also highlighted a tool for enabling and enhancing education for children with disabilities noting that “All means All”.

Governments are urged to consolidate national consultations as they prepare for the September Summit, where Heads of State and Governments will announce their national commitments to transforming education. 

 More themes and key messages in the TES Pre Summit closing press release. 

By Vicky Mogeni, Youth and Students' Engagement & Learning Coordinator

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The Global Campaign for Education (GCE) is a civil society movement that aims to end exclusion in education. Education is a basic human right, and our mission is to make sure that governments act now to deliver the right of everyone to a free, quality, public education.