East and Southern Africa Region Online Consultation on the GEM 2020 Global Meeting, 29 September 2020

The Regional Offices for Eastern and Southern Africa, in cooperation with the Division for Education 2030 at UNESCO HQ, organised an online consultation meeting on 29 September 2020 to deliberate on the draft declaration document of the 2020 Global Education Meeting (GEM) on Education Post-COVID19. The meeting brought together 21 countries in the sub-region represented by senior government officials, SDG4 focal points, Secretary Generals of National Commissions, UN agencies, members of civil society, non-governmental organisations, and academia.

As countries emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, there is need to position education as a viable instrument in recovery efforts through implementation of policies and programmes to ensure an inclusive approach, committed political leadership and increased and targeted investments in education by governments.  These together will to a large extent reach the marginalized, those at risk of being left behind in the efforts to realize the SDG 4 agenda.

The regional consultative meeting was opened with a presentation by the Director of the Division for Education 2030, Ms. Maki Hayashikawa. She underscored the importance of regional consultations worldwide to ensure that the final Declaration document to be tabled for adoption at the Heads of State and Governments High-level GEM meeting on 22 October 2020, puts education at the centre of the recovery efforts in education. “We need to secure commitments from political leaders by positioning education in the centre of national and international efforts to recover inclusively and sustainably from the COVID-19 pandemic,” she stressed.

The meeting discussed the draft GEM 2020 declaration in order to make sure that the views of countries in ESA are incorporated into the draft document. This is necessary to move forward together and accelerate progress toward SDG4 in the context of COVID-19 and beyond.

The discussion in the breakout sessions was very engaging with participants commenting on the draft declaration document and suggesting various improvements. The outcome of the discussion resulted in a more focused and more inclusive draft document, which will be further enriched through follow up deliberations with similar draft declaration document being formulated by other regional offices in Africa.

The meeting closed with remarks by Mr. Hubert Gijzen, Regional Director, UNESCO Regional Office for Southern Africa, and Mrs. Ann Therese Ndong-Jatta, Director, UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa. Both Directors participated in the group discussions and appreciated the high level of engagement of the participants and the lively discussion that took place.  They expressed the hope that the deliberations and the draft declaration formulated will guide the education work in Africa over a period of 12 months to be covered by the 2020 GEM Declaration.

Once adopted, the 2020 GEM Declaration will be implemented by Member States and its progress will be reviewed in the ordinary GEM session in November 2021. “This consultative meeting is an opportunity to renew our collective commitment to do everything we can to leave no one behind. It also offers a test of the political will of our leaders and governments to allocate the required level of resources to meet the formidable challenge that has caught us unprepared in the form of the pandemic” said a representative of civil society who attended the meeting.

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