Global leaders working to increase access to education for children affected by conflict participated in a seminar on campus Wednesday sponsored by Georgetown and the Education Above All Foundation.
Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, who chairs the foundation, spoke during the Global Thought Leadership Seminar panel discussion along with United Nations Sustainability Development advocate Dr. Alaa Murabit and Melanne Verveer, executive director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security.
“I’ve seen Syrian children, 14 to15 years old, who can’t read and write – not even their own names,” said Sheikha Moza, who also serves as chair of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development and helped create Education City, where Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service has a campus in Qatar. “Unfortunately, education is the first victim when it comes to times of war.”
Sheikha Moza’s foundation has reached 10.4 million out of school children over six years.
“Entire generations will miss skills to be productive citizens if we don’t intervene and provide education,” she added. “Education in post conflict allows young educated leaders to come back to their countries and break the cycle of violence. They can rebuild their countries and redesign new sets of values.”
Moderated by Georgetown President John J. DeGioia, the discussion took place in advance of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Summit in New York on Sept. 24-25, where heads of state will talk about progress toward 17 goals for sustainable development.
Sustainable Development Goal 4 focuses on quality education for all and was a topic of conversation among the panel.
“In today’s world, millions of children face barriers to accessing education,” said DeGioia. “It’s an unprecedented challenge, but the resources and institutions to address it have never been stronger.”
According to the U.N., 262 million children and youth aged 6 to 17 were out of school worldwide in 2017, and half of primary school children not being educated live in conflict-affected areas.
“My mum believed in the power of education – everyone who got out of a bad situation did so because they had education or a degree,” said Murabit, one of 17 Global Sustainable Development Goals Advocates appointed by the U.N. Secretary-General and the U.N. High-Level Commissioner on Health Employment and Economic Growth.
“Education allows everyone to live a dignified life, which is the basis of the Sustainable Development Goals,” Murabit added.
Sponsors of the seminar said it was an opportunity for global leaders to come together to act as a “catalyst toward action” in the decade leading up to 2030, when it is hoped that the Sustainability Goals will be met.
The panelists agreed that adolescent girls face additional barriers accessing education, and yet their education is crucial to building peace and preventing societies from falling back into conflict.
“Data consistently shows that educating girls is one of the most effective returns on investment,” said Verveer, who served as the first United States Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues under the Obama administration.
Verveer pointed to research the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security has conducted on girls’ access to education and employment in Nigeria.
“The good news is the education gap between boys and girls is closing – but we have a long way to go,” Verveer added.
The Education Above All Foundation welcomes creative ideas to deliver education during times of conflict. They invite suggestions at email@example.com