With the climate crisis upon us, UNESCO youth advocate asks for money to educate the world

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Kenisha Arora could feel the magic in the air on stage at a recent United Nations meeting in Paris, where a global contingent of young people urged world leaders to invest more in education.

It could have been the fact that the Ivorian group Magic System had just played the song of the same name, but the medical student from Mississauga, Ont., nevertheless felt the determination of young people around the world pushing to turn their demands into commitments. farms. world leaders, then concrete actions.

“There’s so much inequality in the world, there’s so much that breaks my heart, but I really hope it’s us human beings who can change what this world looks like,” he said. said Arora, 19.

Kenisha Arora addresses delegates, including education ministers, at a pre-UN summit in Paris. Photo provided by Kenisha Arora

Temporary school closures at the start of the pandemic meant that the vast majority of the world’s children – more than 1.6 billion of them – lost access to learning at some point, including hundreds of millions who relied on school for necessities like meals, speakers told the policy forum. . Those who stayed away from school the longest were also the least likely to return.

Speakers at the pre-summit of education ministers and senior officials in Paris from June 28-30 called for a transformation of education systems to put the needs of students at the heart of their concerns. UN forum hopes to put national governments back on track to reach 2030s Sustainable Development Goal No. 4 – quality education, which she says anchors the 17 goals to leave no one behind.

To achieve this, the forum wants governments to allocate at least four to six percent of their gross domestic product, or 15 to 20 percent of public spending, to investment in education, with the richest countries contributing to the cost of low-income countries.

Most global spending on education is in high-income countries, which only worsens inequality. Map via UNESCO

While Canadian students have been impacted by the pandemic, Arora said learners in other countries face greater challenges. Her contemporaries in Sierra Leone, Kenya and Malawi have raised concerns about access to education during the pandemic, she said, “not even overcoming digital learning, but even just accessing the ‘education itself’.

Once everyone has access to education, she said the next big global goal is to make education relevant to today’s challenges so that young people can get to work solving the problems of the world. world. Better education would include helping “young people approach climate action and turn climate literacy into climate action, and (determine) what that looks like,” Arora said.

The world needs more money for learning to create prosperity, and needs to make sure it also reduces inequality, @KenishaArora told the UN meeting.

For Canada, more professional development is needed for teachers so they are equipped to provide students with the skills needed for the jobs of tomorrow, said the Western University medical student, and to close the gaps that make post-secondary education inaccessible for some. people.

As UNESCO Youth Representative for North America and Europe, Arora is also the sole youth voice on the United Nations High Level Steering Committee on Education. She describes it as “quite a journey” for a young person to secure a place at the table with the president of the World Bank, the executive directors of UNICEF and UNESCO, and heads of state.

She will work with the Canadian government ahead of the Heads of State meeting in New York, hosting online consultations for young people to share their views on how to shape the future of education and what the transformation of learning could mean.

The Education Transformation Summit, to be held during the 77th United Nations General Assembly, aims to mobilize political ambition to revitalize education after two years of pandemic-related disruption and reinvent it for the coming.

Morgan Sharp / Local Journalism Initiative / National Observer of Canada

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