THE GIFT OF ED­U­CA­TION

The im­ages of young girls from de­vel­op­ing coun­tries star­ing fear­lessly into the cam­era al­ways evoke em­pa­thy, touch a chord. We stare in com­pas­sion, lis­ten to tales of war, famine and devastation, pon­der over it for few days and then move on with life.

Qatar Today - - INSIDE THIS ISSUE - BY SINDHU NAIR

An ini­tia­tive from Qatar, Ed­u­cate a child, reaches out to chil­dren around the world who do not have ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion. A Qatar To­day re­port.

Liv­ing in Qatar, far re­moved from qualms of ed­u­ca­tion, se­cu­rity and poverty, it is eas­ier to for­get the sights that flashed by at the Ed­u­cate a Child press con­fer­ence. But not for HH Shiekha Moza bint Nasser who, when no­ti­fied about the dras­tic sit­u­a­tion of the sec­ond of UN's Mil­len­nium Devel­op­ment Goals with 57 mil­lion chil­dren still with­out ed­u­ca­tion, chose to reach out to the poor­est of the na­tions in the world. That she used her po­si­tion to make a dif­fer­ence is the ripple that will now ef­fect change.

Launched in Novem­ber 2012, Ed­u­cate a Child is a global pro­gramme of the Ed­u­ca­tion Above All Foun­da­tion, an ini­tia­tive that aims to trig­ger sig­nif­i­cant break­throughs in pro­vid­ing qual­ity pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion to the 57 mil­lion chil­dren who cur­rently have no ac­cess to school­ing. EAC is an ex­ten­sion of Sheikha Moza's man­date as a UNESCO Spe­cial En­voy on Ba­sic and Higher Ed­u­ca­tion, a United Na­tions Mil­len­nium Devel­op­ment Goal Ad­vo­cate and a Steer­ing Com­mit­tee mem­ber of UN Sec­re­tary- Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon's Global Ed­u­ca­tion First ini­tia­tive.

In the sec­ond phase of its op­er­a­tion, EAC brought to­gether another set of coun­try del­e­gates a few months ago. Min­is­ters of Ed­u­ca­tion and high-level rep­re­sen­ta­tives from 16 coun­tries dis­cussed this predica­ment and were asked to lend their sup­port to ex­pand­ing ac­cess to pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion pro­grammes for mil­lions of chil­dren who lack this fun­da­men­tal right. In to­tal, the coun­tries par­tic­i­pat­ing in the meet­ing rep­re­sent nearly one-third (31%) of the chil­dren who are not en­rolled in pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion. The meet­ing was held at the Ha­mad Bin Khal­ifa Univer­sity Stu­dent Cen­tre in Ed­u­ca­tion City, and re­ceived fi­nan­cial sup­port from ExxonMo­bil.

Coun­tries in at­ten­dance in­cluded Afghanistan, Al­ge­ria, An­gola, Burk­ina Faso, Co­moros, Demo­cratic Repub­lic of the Congo, Ghana, Mali, Mau­ri­ta­nia, Morocco, Niger, Nige­ria, Philip­pines, South Africa, Tan­za­nia (in­clud­ing Zanz­ibar) and Ye­men. “We in­ten­tion­ally iden­ti­fied coun­tries that are open to dis­cus­sions and want to im­ple­ment change in their coun­tries. We need the help of the gov­ern­ments to make our work eas­ier and it is im­por­tant to do this with the right part­ner­ships and with govern­ment sup­port,” says Dr Mary Joy Pigozzi, Man­ag­ing Direc­tor, EAC. “

This High-Level Meet­ing is a unique op­por­tu­nity for high­light­ing in­no­va­tive so­lu­tions avail­able now that have been suc­cess­ful in reach­ing out-of-school chil­dren. It is our hope that through this meet­ing, EAC can help sup­port, sus­tain and scale ef­forts in these coun­tries as well as pro­vide mod­els and in­sights for those that are begin­ning their as­so­ci­a­tion with EAC. We want to in­spire coun­tries to take up the best ideas and im­ple­ment them where needed, thereby en­sur­ing that chil­dren ev­ery­where have ac­cess to qual­ity pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion.”

Qatar To­day met two pas­sion­ate minds who share HH Sheikha Moza's vi­sion and help trans­late that into ac­tions. Mar­cio Barbosa, Se­nior Ad­vi­sor of the Of­fice of HH Sheikha Moza's of­fice, has pas­sion writ large on his face as he says that the is­sue of reach­ing out to chil­dren with no ac­cess to pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion is at a crit­i­cal junc­ture and one that no longer can be ig­nored.

EAC has aims that seem im­pos­si­ble to reach – 10 mil­lion chil­dren in schools by 2015/2016 – but ac­cord­ing to Barbosa, the vi­sion is to at­tain a def­i­nite tar­get and a pro­jec­tion was put down be­cause the sit­u­a­tion was such that it needed a com­mit­ment for im­me­di­ate ac­tion. From the date EAC started, it has sup­ported more than two mil­lion out-of-school chil­dren and ac­cord­ing to Dr Pigozzi “is on track to reach 10 mil­lion chil­dren by the end of 2015/2016”.

“Af­ter we had the tar­get in place, we worked to get there through strate­gies and part­ner­ships and a well-drawn out plan,” says

"More than poverty it is war that makes our work dif­fi­cult. We can at least make an ef­fort, even in poverty-rid­den coun­tries, but not so in a bat­tle-weary sit­u­a­tion"

MAR­CIO BARBOSA Se­nior Ad­vi­sor of the Of­fice of HH Sheikha Moza's of­fice (L) with

DR MARY JOY PIGOZZI

Man­ag­ing Direc­tor, EAC

Dr Pigozzi. “As long as the con­di­tions are favourable we plan on find­ing the miss­ing kids through part­ners,” she says, adding, “the 10 mil­lion-fig­ure is a cu­mu­la­tive count and it has to be achieved by next year.”

All of EAC's suc­cess de­pends on part­ner­ship and how the host coun­try sup­ports their ini­tia­tives. Any pro­gramme that in­volves such co­op­er­a­tion on a global scale is faced by chal­lenges through gov­ern­men­tal or or­gan­si­a­tional de­lays. But EAC has faced no such hitches.

“What is in­ter­est­ing is that we hit suc­cess due to the in­tent of the project,” she says. “The Prime Min­is­ter of Congo spoke about this pro­gramme in Oman re­cently and com­mended the ini­tia­tive. We take part­ner­ships very se­ri­ously, we give credit and we re­alise that we need all the stake­hold­ers to achieve the best re­sults.”

Barbosa con­tin­ues, “We don't want to act in iso­la­tion. We are go­ing to these coun­tries for a pos­i­tive change and how­ever you look at it we are not do­ing any­thing wrong; we are not buy­ing land nor are we es­tab­lish­ing a colony. It is the part­ner who does our work in these coun­tries.”

“We just bring all of the stake­hold­ers to­gether and keep the gov­ern­ments in­volved in all ac­tiv­i­ties.”

Tak­ing an ex­am­ple of the Su­dan pro­gramme, Dr Pigozzi says that EAC, through its part­ners in Su­dan, helps find the chil­dren while the Su­danese govern­ment gets the school fa­cil­ity in place. “Part of our funds goes into get­ting the ma­te­ri­als to sup­port the pro­gramme like text­books while the ma­jor­ity of the fund is for find­ing the chil­dren and mak­ing sure that they con­tinue with the pro­gramme, mak­ing this a sus­tain­able ef­fort,” she says. There is no sin­gle so­lu­tion, as each of the coun­tries has a spe­cific is­sue, like famine, or war con­di­tions. “We learn from ex­ist­ing so­lu­tions and help in­sti­gate other coun­tries to join in.”

Barbosa talks about the chal­lenge that the small coun­try has taken on and is tack­ling. He says, “Imag­ine or­gan­is­ing a del­e­ga­tion from all these coun­tries here, to work on some­thing that the UN has not been able to man­age in its years of ex­is­tence. We could do it be­cause the re­sults seen among our first batch of coun­tries.”

“Another fac­tor is that we take on those coun­tries where this is­sue is most preva­lent and hence get the re­sults faster as the need is much higher,” says Dr Pigozzi. “We also work with peo­ple who know the chil­dren and come up with in­no­va­tive so­lu­tions to scale up and push up the project to reach the 10 mil­lion mark that is set as the goal.”

One of the ini­tial coun­tries that signed up the EAC pro­gramme was In­dia. But even with­out a his­tory of suc­cess, EAC man­aged

to tri­umph and the rea­son for this, ac­cord­ing to Barbosa, is the trust that HH Sheikha Moza's name evokes. Dr Pigozzi em­pha­sises, “She was as­so­ci­ated to ed­u­ca­tion and cre­ated an op­por­tu­nity for us in all these coun­tries. She has im­mense cred­i­bil­ity in the world. She has a vi­sion that is very clean and clear. She has a rep­u­ta­tion of fo­cus­ing on ac­tion not on talks.”

The part­ners were iden­ti­fied through sur­veys, and another layer of scru­tiny to fi­nalise them. “We have never paid the money di­rectly to any gov­ern­ments, we iden­tify the mem­bers or part­ners and these are ei­ther cer­ti­fied through our process or are rec­om­mended part­ners by the UN and the amount is passed to them,” says Dr Pigozzi.

In­dian con­nec­tion

Bharti Foun­da­tion is one such pro­gramme that has been iden­ti­fied by the EAC. Bharti Foun­da­tion is the devel­op­ment arm of one of the cor­po­rate houses in In­dia, Bharti Group of Com­pa­nies. Talk­ing to Vi­jay Chadda, CEO Bharti Foun­da­tion, we found out that over the years, the Foun­da­tion has es­tab­lished 254 Satya Bharti Schools which cur­rently pro­vide free ed­u­ca­tion to ap­prox­i­mately 40,000 chil­dren across vil­lages in six states of In­dia.

“Un­der the EAC part­ner­ship, the Foun­da­tion has put in place, on equal cost shar­ing ba­sis, a two-pronged strat­egy to bring 48,000 out-of-school chil­dren back to school by March 2016. It aims to achieve this not only through its ex­ist­ing Satya Bharti Schools but also by spe­cially es­tab­lish­ing the Satya Bharti Learn­ing Cen­tres, ”says Chadda. Chadda goes deeper into the evil that is dire in In­dian states, the lack of proper ed­u­ca­tion, which is now be­ing taken up quite strongly by the govern­ment.

“Ra­jasthan is one of the back­ward states of In­dia, es­pe­cially on school ed­u­ca­tion in­di­ca­tors. The state con­tin­ues to con­trib­ute a large share of out-of-school chil­dren in the over­all coun­try level tally with more than 280,000 out of school chil­dren (Sarva Shik­sha Ab­hiyan 2012). Un­der the EAC part­ner­ship, Bharti Foun­da­tion has ini­ti­ated a new pro­gramme in 2013, the Satya Bharti Learn­ing Cen­tres. These cen­tres are es­tab­lished in­side govern­ment schools and work with them to iden­tify outof-school chil­dren, en­roll them back into schools and pro­vide them with age-ap­pro­pri­ate ed­u­ca­tional sup­port to ad­dress their learn­ing gaps through con­densed sub­ject spe­cific mod­ules.”

Cur­rently 237 such cen­tres are op­er­a­tional in two dis­tricts of Ra­jasthan, which have iden­ti­fied and en­rolled back more than 5,500 out-of-school chil­dren, of whom 50% are girls, he re­ports.

In the In­dian con­text, ad­dress­ing the prob­lem of out of school chil­dren di­rectly re­lates to the de­liv­ery of qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion to marginalised sec­tions. These chil­dren are con­tin­u­ously at risk of drop­ping out due to the rea­sons like lack of phys­i­cal ac­cess to schools (in­fra­struc­ture and trans­port, so­cio-eco­nomic con­di­tion of the fam­i­lies), poverty lead­ing to a pref­er­ence for earn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties from child work/ labour, lack of qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion and care in school, act­ing as a bar­rier to age-ap­pro­pri­ate ed­u­ca­tion poverty and the early mar­riage of girls.

“Hence, the sin­gle most im­por­tant point to be ad­dressed to­day in In­dia for en­sur­ing ed­u­ca­tion to out-of-school chil­dren is im­prov­ing the qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion in schools, aided with by teacher mo­ti­va­tion and

“Through our part­ner­ship with Ed­u­cate A Child we aim to re­duce the num­ber of out-of-school chil­dren in two dis­tricts in Ethiopia's south­ern Bale Zone by 21,945 by 2016"

SAPNA DAYAL Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor Imag­ine1­day

ac­count­abil­ity,” says Chadda.

The Ethiopian epi­demic

Imag­ine1­day is an Ethiopian part­ner­ship of EAC and the spokesper­son, Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor, Sapna Dayal says, “Through our part­ner­ship with EAC we aim to re­duce the num­ber of out-of-school chil­dren in two dis­tricts in Ethiopia's south­ern Bale Zone by 21,945 by 2016.” Imag­ine1­day is a ver­ti­cally in­te­grated or­gan­i­sa­tion with satel­lite of­fices and re­gional ex­per­tise lo­cated in all ge­o­graph­i­cal re­gions of fo­cus. It has strong re­la­tion­ships with govern­ment and com­mu­nity part­ners. “Our team di­rectly in­forms, re­sources and im­ple­ments each el­e­ment of our pro­gramme, and we've de­vel­oped proven strate­gies to help chil­dren and their fam­i­lies over­come bar­ri­ers to ed­u­ca­tion. We are work­ing within Ethiopia's pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem and cur­ricu­lum to help the coun­try achieve its goals of cre­at­ing last­ing, sys­temic ad­vance­ments to en­sure uni­ver­sal ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion for all of its chil­dren. To this end, our part­ner­ship with EAC is al­low­ing us to take a gi­ant leap to­wards our goal to en­sure Ethiopi­ans ac­cess to qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion funded free of for­eign aid by 2030,” says Dayal.

Though Ethiopia has made great strides in ad­vanc­ing their ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, there re­main over 2.4 mil­lion out-of-school chil­dren in Ethiopia, the high­est in Sub- Sa­ha­ran Africa. “This is a com­plex is­sue that de­mands creative lead­er­ship at both the govern­ment and com­mu­nity level,” says Dayal. “We be­lieve that solv­ing the is­sue of out-of-school chil­dren starts with tack­ling the bar­ri­ers that pre­vent chil­dren from en­rolling in school, or that cause them to drop out pre­ma­turely, in­clud­ing neg­a­tive at­ti­tudes to­wards ed­u­ca­tion/ex­clu­sion­ary be­liefs and be­hav­iours and eco­nomic bot­tle­necks that ru­ral fam­i­lies face. Once chil­dren are en­rolled in school, it is im­per­a­tive that the ed­u­ca­tion de­liv­ery be of high qual­ity and that chil­dren have ac­cess to schools within close prox­im­ity in order to con­tinue their ed­u­ca­tion be­yond early grades.”

Dayal is very op­ti­mistic about the EAC pro­gramme, with the re­sults in the time that it has been im­ple­mented and also be­cause of the com­mu­nity sup­port it is gen­er­at­ing.

She says, “As a new part­ner of Ed­u­cate A Child, imag­ine1­day is al­ready ob­serv­ing in­cred­i­ble progress in the dis­tricts where we've start­ing to im­ple­ment our EAC-funded project. Com­mu­nity lead­ers who once doubted the value of ed­u­ca­tion are tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for en­sur­ing that all the chil­dren in their vil­lage ac­cess ed­u­ca­tion. Women lead­ers are mo­bil­is­ing their com­mu­ni­ties to col­lect ma­te­ri­als and build new schools with their own hands. Com­mu­nity in­flu­encers are trav­el­ing door-to-door to con­vince par­ents to send their chil­dren to school. Work­ing with the EAC team and other part­ners of the pro­gramme, we've learned new ap­proaches and strate­gies that we're ap­ply­ing to our projects. With re­gard to the EAC pro­gramme on the whole,

we be­lieve there is noth­ing more pow­er­ful than declar­ing big goals. We whole­heart­edly be­lieve that EAC's wide­spread ef­forts and high level of com­mit­ment will cause them to achieve their goals.”

Build­ing the plan

While EAC de­pends largely on such or­gan­i­sa­tions that are deeply em­bed­ded in the fab­ric of the coun­try, It also goes a step fur­ther to keep mon­i­tor­ing and have due dili­gence on the or­gan­i­sa­tion. “There is a mech­a­nism in place to mon­i­tor the progress. The or­gan­i­sa­tion re­ports twice a year, with tech­ni­cal and fi­nan­cial re­ports and re­ports on sta­tis­tics to en­sure that the checks are in bal­ance. We have to be sure that the money that is al­lo­cated is be­ing put to use rightly,” says Dr Pigozzi.

Dr Pigozzi takes the ex­am­ple of a South Su­dan pro­gramme in an area that was af­fected by the war and had to be ter­mi­nated. “We had a part­ner­ship with a part­ner in South Su­dan. Un­for­tu­nately hos­til­ity broke out in some of the re­gion that the pro­gramme was based in. The part­ner came to us and asked that we re­pro­gramme the fund since it could not be used in these ar­eas.”

EAC is fund­ing around 35% of the cost of the whole pro­gramme while the rest is sourced by the gov­ern­ments of each coun­try. The bud­get is aligned ac­cord­ing to the ex­pen­di­ture in each phase, points out Barbosa. Ask for one spe­cial story that has touched the hearts, and Dr Pigozzi takes us through not one but many sto­ries that have touched a chord and evoked a re­sponse. “We part­ner through Al Fakhoora to ed­u­cate Pales­tine refugees, sup­port UNICEF with the Syr­ian sit­u­a­tion, sup­port ur­ban schools in Bangladesh, we sup­port girls' ed­u­ca­tion in In­dia; all of them are sto­ries of ded­i­ca­tion, com­mit­ment and in­no­va­tion. They are all spe­cial.”

Poverty is one of the big­gest driv­ers of keep­ing chil­dren away from school and with a grow­ing pop­u­la­tion the fig­ures are not look­ing rosy.

“When we started our work the Syr­ian war had not bro­ken and we had tar­geted to erase out-of-school chil­dren from Syria in our first phase. But with the war we had to re­duce the scale there. More than poverty it is war that makes our work dif­fi­cult. We can make an ef­fort in poverty-rid­den coun­tries, but not so in a bat­tle-weary sit­u­a­tion,” says Barbosa.

But Dr Pigozzi is in­spired ev­ery mo­ment. She says, “When you hear Sheikha Moza speak with such ded­i­ca­tion and see her com­mit­ment you feel mo­ti­vated. She is very in­spir­ing as a leader. Then the work of the part­ners, their tire­less ded­i­ca­tion; the faces of the chil­dren in the class­room; ev­ery mo­ment is in­spir­ing. When you see the smil­ing kids, learn­ing in the con­di­tions they live in, you be­lieve that any­thing is pos­si­ble.”

Barbosa talks about one in­ci­dent that is spe­cial. “Once when we were vis­it­ing the Ama­zon, a small tribal boy greeted HH Sheikha Moza and asked her, “From where you come, do you have chil­dren there? ”

"The sin­gle most im­por­tant point to be ad­dressed to­day in In­dia for en­sur­ing ed­u­ca­tion to out-of-school chil­dren is im­prov­ing the qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion in schools, aided with by teacher mo­ti­va­tion" VI­JAY CHADDA CEO Bharti Foun­da­tion

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