UNGA CONFERENCE 2021
PANEL 3 - QUALITY EDUCATION IN THE POST-COVID ERA AND DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES
All the Global Goals are interrelated and dependent on each other. SDG4 “ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all” has a remarkable contribution to the implementation of the Global Agenda 2030. One of the critical areas that the COVID-19 Pandemic has caused a substantial setback is access to education. Panel Session 3 addressed the following themes: Long Term Implications of an Unequal Access to Education During COVID-19, Remote Learning: Opportunities and Challenges, Overview of Global Access to the Digital Technologies, Resources, and Disparities, Girls` Education and Women’s Empowerment in the Era of Digital Technologies.
The moderator of this session was Dr. Rajendran Govender, the Executive Director of Mzansi Empowerment Enterprise and Social Cohesion Advocate at the Department of Arts and Culture from South Africa. In his opening remarks, Dr. Govender highlighted that one of the most critical areas that the COVID19 caused is the substantial setback to access quality education. He underlined that there is an urgent need to develop new conceptual frameworks for effective teaching and learning strategies engaging students meaningfully to lead to better outcomes. Dr. Govender also added that there is a need to move away from conventional teaching styles to use interactive digital technologies.
The first panelist of this session was Prof. Modesto Seara Vázquez, the Rector of the Oaxaca State University System and the Honorary President of the Mexican Association of International Studies from Mexico. Prof. Seara Vázquez focused his remarks on the long-term implications of unequal access to education during COVID-19. Prof. Seara Vazquez started by highlighting that resource management globally has been very irrational in recent decades pushing human survival at stake. He stated that education as an instrument of mobility and social progress is only effective if it is high quality. Prof. Seara Vázquez emphasized the fact that “If we misunderstand the sense of equity, we limit ourselves to the facilitating young people within the educational system obtaining degrees that is not packed by knowledge resulting in permanent imbalances.”
The next panelist Vivian Heyl is the Representative of the Minister of Education from Chile shared her insights on the theme of remote learning opportunities and challenges. Ms. Heyl underlined that in Chile during 2020, only 56% of homes had access to the internet and 30% had access only through mobile phones with lesser connectivity in low income households, especially in rural settlements. Vivian Heyl indicated that “COVID19 increased social inequalities: leaving school has an impact on future income, negative effect on upcoming economic and labor opportunities, increasing the risk of poverty and social exclusion.
Following Vivian Heyl`s remarks, Dr. William C. Schulz, the Director of Academic Outcomes Research and Founder of Center for Social Change at Walden University talked about the overview of global access to digital technologies, resources, and disparities. Dr. Schulz said that integrated classroom design, engagement, expectations and technology deployment are critical elements for quality online education approaches which may create challenges for access. In his presentation, Dr. Schulz proposed that “we should leverage the power of specialization, cooperation and build hybrid cooperatives, public and private, in which individuals with higher experience in the online world can begin to work with people on the ground with local experiences.”
Mirabela Amarandei, the Director of Strategic Orientation and Public Policies at the University of Bucharest from Romania, talked about girls` education and women’s empowerment in the era of digital technologies. According to Ms. Amarandei investing in girls` education creates our future, transforms families, communities, countries and shapes the entire world into a better and prosperous place. She said that “Girls and women are the real agents of change.” Ms. Amarandei highlighted that “girls education goes beyond the simplicity of going to school; it means proper conditions of living, ensuring a safe and meaningful space for learning, maintaining equal opportunities for inclusive quality education”.
Feyzullah Bilgin, the Managing Director of the Nigerian Tulip International Colleges shared several best practices of the right to access quality education during COVID-19. He presented an overview of the challenges that students encounter in Nigeria. Mr. Bilgin said that “According to UNICEF, one in every five of the world’s out-of-school children is in Nigeria; here, about 10.5 million children are not in schools.” The states in the northeast and northwest have female primary net attendance rates of 47.7 percent and 47.3 percent, respectively, meaning that more than half of the girls are not in school. In line with SDG 4, Mr. Bilgin indicated that “we are educating around 1500 girls in our schools, which are mostly located in the northern zone of Nigeria. NTIC scholarship scheme has also been extended to 40 Dapchi girls who were kidnapped in 2014 after their release in 2016.”
The last speaker of Panel Session 3 was Rares Voicu, the Board member of Organising Bureau of European School Student Unions from Romania. He pointed out that the pandemic has wiped out 20 years of educational progress and affected the lives of young people worldwide. Mr. Voicu indicated that “We are facing an educational catastrophe.” He talked about the fact that the most unrepresented stakeholders being the school students, the main beneficiaries. Mr. Voicu said that “At the 76th Session of the UNGA, the world leaders have been talking about the brighter future that we will have, but we can only get there through quality, inclusive and accessible education.”
The Keynote Speaker of the Closing Session at the UNGA Conference 2021 was Dr. Swadesh Rana, the Former Chief of the Conventional Arms Branch at the Department of Disarmament Affairs at the United Nations. Dr. Swadesh Rana is a Senior Fellow at the World Policy Institute in New York and the UN Representative of the Academic Council of the UN System. In her closing remarks, Dr. Rana talked about the importance of SDG 17 saying that it is one of the most cross-sectoral goals. She highlighted that there are less than 10 years to achieve all the goals and talked about the urge that the 2020s should be the decade of transformative actions for the implementation of the Development Agenda 2030. Dr. Rana underlined that the main facilitators of this ambitious development framework are the partnerships that civil society organizations lead, the academia and the scientific community that bridge the gap between knowledge and informed decision-makers.
Closing remarks of the UNGA Conference 2021 were delivered by Mehmet Kilic, the President of the Journalists and Writers Foundation. Mr. Kilic started his remarks by thanking the keynote speakers, moderators and panelists for their outstanding presentations, reflections, and remarks. The panelists provided participants with a substantial analysis of information on the Progress of SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals; Climate Change and Ecological Threats; and Quality Education during the Post-Covid Era and Digital Technologies.
Mr. Kilic reiterated the Journalists and Writers Foundation`s commitment to youth empowerment, youth leadership and youth engagement, which play an important role to offer sustainable solutions to social, economic, and environmental challenges. Young people have the energy and potential with the 21st century knowledge, skills, determination to make a difference in society. Mr. Kilic highlighted that following the exemplary leadership of Greta Thunberg and Malala Yousafzai, there are tens of thousands of young people in our community who want to make a difference in society, who want to express their ideas on sustainable peace, climate change, gender equality, social justice and equality, and other issues. It is our responsibility to engage young people in our work and give them a voice. Mr. Kilic reminded the global audience that climate change is a global threat that requires partnerships, collective efforts, and actions. Governments, the private sector, and civil society must work in collaboration and cooperation to overcome its social, economic, and environmental challenges.
In his final words, Mr. Kilic reiterated that the Journalists and Writers Foundation and its Global Partners are committed to an inclusive, transformative, and achievable UN Development Agenda for humanity and the planet that will help achieve our global mission of “Leaving No One Behind.”
UNGA Conference 2021 was a success with 25 speakers from 14 countries; over 3500 participants from 28 countries; and 36 Global Partners from 24 countries. The Panel sessions were recorded and will be available at www.unga-conference.org and JWF’s YouTube Channel.