By Victoria Ibiwoye, Youth Representative of the SDG-Education 2030 Steering Committee
Last week I delivered a petition signed by over 1000 right-to-education campaigners from over 110 countries at the fourth meeting of the SDG-Education 2030 Steering Committee at UNESCO headquarters in Paris. The petition calls on governments worldwide to take concrete steps towards strengthening the right to education in every country.
As one of the nine global youth ambassadors for the Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report’s right to education campaign, it was an honour to be able to address representatives from Member States, UN agencies, other multilateral and regional organizations, teacher and civil society networks on behalf of youth education advocates from around the world.
My fellow youth ambassadors and I have benefited from having access to good quality education. The education we received has given us skills that help us deal with complexities and uncertainties. And we continue to learn at every age both formally and informally.
However, despite all the soundbites, the challenges in providing inclusive and equitable education of good quality for all are ongoing. While 193 countries around the world committed to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September 2015, including SDG 4 on education, the commitments have not yet visibly translated to change. Progress is quite simply not fast enough. There was no progress between 2015 and 2016 with 263 million children, adolescents and youth continuing to be out of school.
The 2017/8 GEM Report showed that governments are responsible for the right to education. If governments aren’t doing as they said they would, we should be able to legally claim our right to education. The Report shows that every country in the world has ratified at least one human rights treaty guaranteeing some aspect of the right to education and 82% of national constitutions explicitly recognize the right to education. But citizens can use the constitution to take government to court for violations of this right in only 55% of countries, while at least 41% of countries have taken the government to court for violations. If we cannot take legal action when the right to education is denied, it risks being reduced to empty rhetoric.
What can we do to deliver change?
In December, the GEM Report launched a right to education campaign on the need for people to have a legal recourse if the right to education is not respected. Based on the core recommendation in the last GEM Report, the campaign is backed by over fifteen national and international organisations. Using that campaign as a starting point, we have been busy engaging youth leaders from around the globe to use their positions of privilege to make sure that governments and the international community help finance and fulfill the right to education, especially for the most marginalized.
I urged the Members of the SDG4‐Education2030 Steering Committee and the constituencies they represent to take a stance on the right to education, to get behind our campaign and to publicly endorse a joint statement recognizing the right to education as a crucial expression of accountability upholding the SDG 4 agenda. I am pleased to say that both actions were well received.
Achieving SDG 4 is a shared responsibility between us all, so let us stand together as international community in our commitment that everyone is able to enjoy their right to education.
We must never forget that education is not a privilege. It is a human right.
The SDG- Education 2030 Steering Committee meeting marks the official end of the GEM Reports right to education campaign. We encourage right to education campaigners to sign up to receive our regular Newsalerts providing the latest updates on bills or constitutional reforms going through parliament in different countries worldwide that would reflect their international obligations related to the right to education in their national law.