I thank the Group of Friends of Education and Lifelong Learning for inviting me to participate in today’s briefing. In particular I thank the Co-Chairs, Argentina, Czech Republic, Japan, Kenya and Norway; and UNESCO for convening this event.
When we celebrated this Group’s first anniversary on the International Day of Education and Lifelong Learning, January 24th, we did not anticipate that we would experience the biggest disruption to education in the history of our Organization.
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in unprecedented school and university closures. Over 1.6 billion learners have experienced a disruption in education. This will not just affect the basic literacy achievements of students, but it threatens their analytical skills and critical thinking enabling them to practice intercultural dialogue and tolerance for different beliefs, cultures, and values.
The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing inequalities, threatening the most vulnerable. Today 465 million children and youth are unable to access the Internet at home. Moreover, two-thirds of teachers are not equipped with the skills to deliver on-line learning.
For the most vulnerable children, including girls and children with disabilities, and children in fragile contexts, the return to school is not guaranteed. We cannot lose a generation of learners.
As we re-build and recover from COVID-19, I call on Governments to mainstream education in their response to mitigate conflict, hunger, poverty and instability which weaken a child’s ability to learn. Students require conducive environments to ensure that learning takes place. We also need to fund quality teacher training.
I call on you to invest in our future. I ask that you recommit to the two benchmarks set in 2015, which call for at least 4% of GDP and at least 15% of public expenditure to be allocated to education.
I call on donors to meet the UN target of 0.7% of gross national income to foreign aid and allocate 10% of that aid to primary and secondary education. This will help bridge the annual financing gap regarding education.
Let me assure you that inclusive, quality education remains a priority for the 74th session of the General Assembly. Consider me your partner in all of your endeavours in the area of education. I am confident that by striving together, we will succeed in delivering for all.
I thank you.