Education Above All (EAA) Foundation hosted a high-level, virtual side-event on ‘Education and the Trying Times of COVID-19’ during HLPF 2020.

The HLPF annual meeting is the core United Nations platform for follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) at the global level. The event was co-organised with the Permanent Mission of the State of Qatar to the UN, the Qatar Fund For Development, the Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development and the Asian Development Bank.

Ministries, partners and experts from around the world gathered virtually to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on education for the most marginalised and on how they can further collaborate, exchange critical information, to mitigate the impact of the pandemic, and help address the financial deficiency to build back better education systems.

The high-level virtual side event was participated by top officials from Qatar and from various UN-affiliated organisations: HE Ambassador Sheikha Alya Ahmed Saif Al Thani, Permanent Mission of the State of Qatar to the UN; HE Dr Mamadou Tangara, Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Gambians Abroad; HE Khalifa Jassim Al Kuwari, Director General, Qatar Fund For Development; Stefania Giannini, Assistant Director-General for Education, UNESCO; Stewart Simonson, Assistant Director-General, WHO Office at UN in New York; Dr Jaime Saavedra Chanduvi, Education Director, World Bank; and Brajesh Panth, Chief of Education Sector Group, Asian Development Bank.

Education and COVID-19

The education of over 1.7 billion learners has been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, compounding the already challenging work of the international education community in ensuring all children have access to a quality primary education. Whilst the world has reeled at the number of children who have had their education interrupted as a result of school closures and the need to increase physical distance between people to protect the health of populations, efforts on ensuring immediate and longer-term, resilient and sustainable solutions have continued.

HE Ambassador Sheikha Alya Ahmed Saif Al Thani, welcomed the panellists to the high-level virtual side-event.

HE Dr Tangara shared his experience and appreciation of the efforts of EAA. Expanding on this, HE Khalifa bin Jassim Al Kuwari said we must rebuild an education system that allows for great innovation, sustainability, equity and inclusion to leave no one behind.

Stefania Giannini opened the discussion on the need to build back better. 70 million children and youth, she said, are at risk of not returning to school.

Simonson addressed the impact of COVID-19 which he said has exposed global health fragility and exacerbated existing inequalities, leaving many vulnerable.

The numbers we see are troubling. Globally, we have surpassed 11 million cases.

Dr Chanduvi meanwhile, highlighted that digital learning goes beyond access to technology. He said that we must act aggressively to expand connectivity and make sure that teachers have the ability to use digital resources, available at the classroom level and integrated with curriculum.

Even before COVID-19, tens of millions of children at the primary level were permanently out of school, and there was already a funding gap. COVID-19 is costing governments billions and educational needs are now competing harder with other critical sectors.

During closing, Education Above All said they have been working to develop different financing solutions to meet the education needs of the world’s hardest-to-reach children.

Our work has focused on innovative, sustainable financial partnerships to support education access for out-of-school children.

Providing access to education for children around the world, according to EAA, is not an easy task at the best of times. The COVID-19 pandemic increases pressure on already stretched systems, and threatens to leave more children exposed to the direct and adverse impacts of a life without access to a quality education.

The discussion and partnership with QFFD development banks and NGO sends a strong message to the world, as everyone look to build stronger, more sustainable education systems in the wake of COVID-19.

We cannot and will not aim to go back to ‘normal’.

The group affirmed their commitment to continue working to provide access to education for the hardest to reach and to achieve SDG4 on primary education.

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