From April 24th – May 1st, the Global Campaign for Education (GCE) launched the annual Global Action Week for Education (#GAWE2019).

Under the overarching theme: Making the right to an inclusive, equitable, quality, free public education a reality and slogan My Education, My right(s), GCE member organizations coordinated events in more than 30 countries around the world. The theme is developed by our President Refat Sabbah in an opinion piece which was published in the Mail & Guardian.

This year’s edition featured support from UNESCO and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, along with the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), United Nations’ Girls Education Initiative (UNGEI), Education Cannot Wait (ECW) and major international NGOs like ActionAid InternationalPlan Internationalthe Global March Against Child LabourCBM and Education International.

The coordinated events and localised interpretation of the theme encompassed several strategic areas for GCE. Equality and non-discrimination in education and Transformative education both call for education curricula that empowers individuals beyond numeracy and literacy skills and Education in emergencies where intensified conflict around the world is a clear impediment to the commitment and achievement of the right to education. Overall, the 2019 GAWE promoted and defended the right to education for all – especially for the most marginalised who struggle to attain and enjoy their right to education.

The GAWE Launch Event

01GAWE launch event in Johannesburg: Image SA Positive News

The GCE Secretariat hosted a launch event in Johannesburg to define and showcase the purpose of the GAWE. The event took place in the form of an international round table as well as panel discussion. Hosted by South African celebrity and social entrepreneur Hlubi Mboya-Arnold, esteemed guests included Angie Motshekga, South African Minister of Basic Education, Mugwena Maluleke, GCE Vice-Chair and education activist, Fati N’zi Hassane, Skills and Employment Head for the Youth Programme in the African Union Development Agency, and Mary Metcalfe, Wits Professor. Representatives from Southern African coalitions included Isabel Da Silva, National Coordinator from MEPT Mozambique as well Liberty Matsive, National Coordinator from ECOZI Zimbabwe.

During the event, Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga called for a unified partnership and renewed commitment to better education in South Africa and added that “[South Africa’s] constitution enshrines basic education as a human right, and the State must ensure this Right is available and accessible to everyone.”

Amongst the media that attended the event, there was Channel Africa, an international radio station that supports the development of Africa through broadcasting stimulating and progressive news. Listen here to podcasts by Minister Angie Motshekga and Mugwena Maluleke calling for the urgent need to address and improve the country’s education infrastructure.

The highlight of the event was a series of short and touching messages delivered by young students from Saxonwold school and Horizon View Primary school who responded to the question: “What does the right to education mean for me?”

In their responses, the children recognised the fundamental transformative role of education:

“Education is important for us if we want to be successful in our lives […]. Without education there is no difference between human beings and animals. Every person, young and old deserves the right of getting a proper education.”

The children also acknowledged the key role their teachers play in their lives: “Every day we learn from our teachers. They teach us about the planets, history, animals, and teach us about our lands. Our teachers do their best to teach us everything that can help us in the future.”

And finally they mentioned key challenges to the right to education in South Africa, while addressing the broader issue of the privatisation of education: “Education is supposed to be for all but does not favor the poor. [..] It should not be a privilege to access quality education.”

02Children from Saxonwold school and Horizon View Primary School: Image GCE

International Partners

During the #GAWE2019, UNESCO urged its Member States that have not yet ratified the Convention against Discrimination in Education to do so as it represents a powerful tool to advance inclusive and equitable quality education for all.

As the famous saying goes, “numbers don’t lie” and The UNESCO Institute for Statistics ensured the 2019 GAWE campaign was anchored in facts and numbers that reflect the extremity of the education crisis worldwide. UIS joined the campaign and shared social media messages such as the ones below.


Additionally, ActionAid International used this moment to elevate the tax justice campaign and released this video.

Events Worldwide

Across the globe, civil society education movements rose to the annual occasion and claimed their right to education in their respective countries. Here are a few highlights.

In Africa

The Coalition Nationale pour l’Education Pour Tous du Burkina Faso – Cn-Ept/bf hosted a press conference to launch the 2019 GAWE in the region. Samuel Dembele, Chairperson of the GCE Board, emphasised the theme “Emergency education in Burkina Faso” and stressed that “education for human rights can be a means of defense against the rise of violence, discrimination, exclusion and intolerance and more must be done to propose solutions that ensure the rights to education for impacted children.”

05Press conference in Burkina Faso: Image Coalition Nationale pour l’Education Pour Tous du Burkina Faso – Cn-Ept/bf

In Kenya, supported by partners, the Elimu Yetu Coalition (EYC) held various activities to raise awareness among education stakeholders on issues threatening the attainment of Kenya’s aspirations for “free and compulsory basic education for all children”. Partner organisations involved include:The African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC), East African Center for Human Rights (EACHRights)Undugu Society of KenyaFAWE KenyaClean StartAction AidTransparency InternationalPlan International, Kenya Union of Post Primary Teachers (KUPPET), Haki Jamii, FIDIPA, Women Education Researchers of Kenya (WERK) and National Tax Payers Association (NTA).

06Media interview featuring Joseph Wasikhongo, EYC National Coordinator: Image EYC

GAWE activities in Kenya reached over 1000 participants directly comprising of representation from the Ministry of Education, Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development, Teachers Service Commission (TSC), Teacher Unions (KNUT and KUPPET), students, Kenya Primary School Heads Association (KEPSHA) Parents, Civil Society Organizations, media representatives and the APBET Association.

In The Middle East

GCE member coalitions adapted the theme to match the timely topic of delivering the right to education to those most impacted by conflict. Increasing access to education cannot be achieved without adequately responding to the social and cultural context where children, youth and adults live and learn, particularly in conflict and disaster settings. Palestine, Jordan, LebanonYemen, Somalia, Egypt, to name a few, participated in 2019 GAWE activities. To see the full list of MENA events which took place read this blog.

07Children participating in the GAWE. Image: Palestinian Education Coalition

In Latin America

At the regional level, CLADE is hosting a series of virtual discussions inviting experts and activists to address the right to education in the region, and debate their vision for a truly transformative education system.

In El Salvador, the Salvadoran Network for the Right to Education (RESALDE) held a debate on the protection of children and promoted early childhood development. Among the main demands of Salvadoran civil society in this framework are: the investment of 6% of the National Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for education; an education for sustainable development; schools free of violence and the integral development of early childhood.

In Guatemala, the Collective of Education for All published a letter highlighting the challenges of the Guatemalan education and demanded actions to guarantee an emancipatory, public and free education. Read the letter in Spanish here. In addition, the coalition hosted dialogues in different regions and presented recommendations to the national government to enforce the Sustainable Development Objective 4.

In the Dominican Republic, the Socio-educational Forum and OXFAM presented a report on the fulfillment of SDG 4, at the national level, as well as published a document that brings together the voices of the educational communities on the progress and challenges in education.

In Asia

In Nepal, a public protest organised by NCE-Nepal took place at Maitighar Mandala with at least 150 participants demanding for the Federal Education Act to be finalised on time and avert any further delays in delivering the the right to education for all Nepalese children .

08Children in Nepal demanding the right to free quality education: Image NCE-Nepal

The E-NET Philippines (Civil Society Network for Education Reforms) used the week to focus on poverty and inequality as the major reason why many Filipino youth are vulnerable and marginalised. GAWE activities reached urban youth, with specific calls to Government including increased budget for education programs for indigenous youth, children and youth with disabilities, Muslim youth, child/youth, rural and urban poor youth and other marginalised groups.

09Marginalised youth workshop in the Philippines: Image E-NET Philippines

In Europe And North America

In Spain, the Campaña Mundial a la Educación (CME) España, organised more than 30 activities, in 24 cities under the slogan “We defend education, we sustain the world!” More than 14,000 people participated in different events to highlight the importance of education in the fight against the degradation of the environment and the transformation towards a social model and the sustainable environment.

10Spanish youth standing up for education and the environment: Image Campaña Mundial a la Educación (CME) España

GCE-US strengthened its commitment to human rights as well as education in emergencies. Students shared their stories using the GAWE 2019 Student and Teacher Activity Packet. Partners and viewers joined ChildFund International for a discussion on Preventing School-Based Violence at the GAWE 2019 kick-off event. Watch it here. Advocates reached out, spoke up online and urged their representatives to support global education funding, and you can too!

In the UK, over 800 schools have joined The Send my Friend to School campaign which was elevated during the Global Action Week for Education. Join them and demand quality education for all.


In Albania, the first National Youth Summit under the theme “Perspectives for Youth Participation and Empowerment” was organised by the Albanian Coalition for Child Education, (ACCE) and partners including the Albanian National Youth Network (ANYN), Child and Youth Policy Hub Albania, and the National Student Alliance, with the support of, CRCA / ECPAT Albania, UNFPA Albania, the Ministry of Culture, and the National Museum of History. The summit brought together young people from the 12 districts of the country, government representatives, EU ambassadors and civil society representatives who discussed the problems and solutions that young people seek in Albania both at the central and local level.

12Youth panelists during the Youth Summit: Image Albanian Coalition for Children’s Education

Global Call To Action

While the designated week may be over, as civil society we know that the global education crisis demands tangible actions and steps including the political will to truly ensure everyone accesses their fundamental right to free, quality, inclusive, public education. We know that quality education is indispensable to the achievement all of the sustainable development goals. Together we can further heighten the pressure on governments to deliver. Let us continue to call on Governments to step up to the challenge and play an active role in promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Act now! Ask your government to realise the right to free, inclusive, quality public education for all #GAWE2019 #MyEducationMyRights

Authors: Lerato Letebele – Balendran – GCE Communications Officer and Natalie Akstein – GCE Networks Engagement 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.