10 March 2013
by Elin Martinez, Save the Children UK. Read her blog here.
The ongoing process to shape the post-2015 framework includes an interesting angle whereby citizens around the world are asked to rank their top priorities for what development goals will come after 2015. The My2015 first online and offline survey results have shown that ‘a good education’ is the top priority for a future development framework for Liberians, where the first survey took place, and a cross-section of the global population who voted online.
Almost in parallel, the g7+ countries, a group of 18 like-minded fragile states taking development decisions into their own hands—as well as donors supporting fragile states in the achievement of their goals—met in Dili to discuss and adopt a common agenda on post-2015 for fragile states.
‘A good quality education’ ranks as top priority so far
More children go to school now than ever before. Most generations have now seen first-hand the benefits of an education – it is no surprise then that we see this endorsement worldwide. It is compelling to see the message reaffirmed across age and gender groups, rural and urban populations, as well as its importance in low and high Human Development Index countries.
Education practitioners worldwide know that in most contexts and in particular in crises-affected contexts, parents and children and communities that want their children to progress further will in most cases demand, prioritise and do whatever they can for their children to receive a good quality education. That this is reflected in a global survey is encouraging – decision makers should respond to this prioritisation.
Messages for fragile states and the g7+?
Fragile states are confronted with a series of top priorities, all crucial for a country’s progress. The Dili consensus on post-2015, the latest document g7+ priorities for post-2015 deliberations, notes a major focus on inclusive economic growth, peacebuilding and statebuilding, climate change and environmental management. There can be no denying that education is the crucial link between all such future aspirations for fragile states.
Notwithstanding future results, it is crucial to highlight the importance of such ratings for education in a country like Liberia. Liberia – a nation that is only just coming out of its conflict-ridden past—needs to tackle many challenges, security, employment, infrastructure, fiscal pressures, among others. It also needs a strong education system to move it away from the fragility it faces and build the nation’s progress. The g7+ focuses on prioritising what States themselves want out of their own development; this global survey provides an unequivocal prioritisation that shows exactly that.
When asked at a high-level event on the launch of Education Cannot Wait, Liberia’s Minister of Education, candidly noted “…There was a lack of attention to teaching children how to survive. The focus was on other things, food and shelter…we now have the challenge of undoing this neglect [of education]. This cannot be allowed to happen again. It is essential that governments facing conflict and the international community wake up to the critical role that education has to play and must play in education in emergencies. I cannot believe that people cannot understand how important this is. And it needs many resources, both human and capital…”
Putting education at the forefront of a nation’s story
As a recent Economist article noted, nations must put education at the forefront of the story they tell about themselves. This applies to all countries globally, but perhaps is most important for fragile states which continue to face challenges in access to education for children.
What will it take for the g7+ group to ensure education is at the forefront of its priorities moving forward?
In Liberia, an entire generation of children became a victim of a terrible, protracted conflict; education was limited or simply not available to many children; often subject to attacks by armed groups. Looking at the survey results, youth prioritised roads and infrastructure before education. It wouldn’t be hard to infer that such young people are part of that lost generation who have had limited and interrupted access to education. They were also most likely afflicted by armed recruitment, early marriage, widespread sexual violence, among other gross violations. Ensuring youth are given an opportunity to grow and feel engaged again is a priority for any one g7+ member wishing to build a sustainable future. As is ensuring the youngest generations are equipped with the right education that will lift a whole nation out of poverty and fragility.
Currently, children may be going to school, or may still be missing out. For those who are in school, the qualifier ‘good’ seems to be a good guiding principle to keep in mind– what and how are children taught? What type of education are they receiving? What does a good quality mean for them?
As set out in Save the Children’s ‘Ending Poverty in Our Generation’, all governments, but particularly g7+ and a wider group of crisis-affected governments, must invest more heavily in the quality of that education and guaranteeing that more children actually learn, achieve good learning outcomes and gain fundamental skills to enable them to access good employment opportunities.
A g7+ agenda on education towards 2015 needs to remain focused on securing equal access for children and securing good learning foundations amongst all children, to enable countries to come closer to achieving progress and breaking the cycles of fragility. Post-2015 discussions provide a key opportunity to reflect on what that learning should be about, how to ensure it links up to greater questions on building societies, breaking down barriers that lead to fragility and securing inclusive growth. It is, in other words, a crucial opportunity for fragile states to re-prioritize education and to place it at the heart of the g7+ agenda beyond 2015.