West and Central Africa is facing an unparalleled disruption in education due to the COVID-19 pandemic which has affected learners, families, schools, teachers and communities, leaving no domains of education unscathed. As the pandemic is still far from coming to an end education is at an important juncture compelling all education communities to prevent this learning crisis from becoming a generational catastrophe.
UNESCO Regional Offices of West and Central Africa (WCA) in cooperation with the Division for Education 2030 at UNESCO HQ, hosted an online regional consultation on 28 September 2020, to incorporate the member states, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) including International Non-governmental Organisations’ (INGOs) reflections and recommendations on the draft outcome document “2030 GEM Declaration” for the extraordinary session of the 2020 Global Education Meeting (2020 GEM) scheduled on 20 and 22 October.
The regional consultation commenced with remarks by Mr. Salah Khaled, the Director of UNESCO Regional Office for Central Africa and a presentation by Ms. Giannini Stefania, UNESCO’s Assistant Director General of Education, underscoring the importance of regional consultations worldwide whose outcomes will be incorporated in the final declaration document to be endorsed by member states at the high-level segment of the 2020 GEM on 22 October, spotlighting education at the centre of recovery.
Member states’ representatives, development partners, CSOs including INGOs upheld and renewed their commitment to the full inclusion of marginalised children, youth, girls, dropouts and persons with disabilities, as well as the promotion of contextualized ICT and innovation for learning continuity, equitable processes for school reopenings, support for teachers, facilitators and school leadership in their capacity building for readiness, stabilization of finance, gender responsiveness and the importance of non-formal and informal education in responding to COVID-19 and beyond. The discussion further stressed on improving education data for evidence-based policy and planning, proactive actions against future pandemics, ensuring all girls are safely back to schools, and properly addressing the exacerbation of pre-existing gender disparities and humanitarian crisis during the pandemic which further deprives of the fundamental right to education.
Following up on the fruitful discussion, UNESCO Regional Offices of WCA further incorporated members’ suggestions and comments to the draft outcome document, which will be integrated with other draft declaration documents being formulated by Regional Offices in Africa. The outcome document “2020 GEM Declaration” will be implemented by member states over the next 12 months and its progress will be reviewed at the ordinary session of the GEM in November 2021.