Civil Society Support from the Global South for an Equitable Learning Agenda

Following the final meeting of the U.N. secretary general’s High-Level Panel (HLP) of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda in Bali, Indonesia from March 25-27, panel members are now engaged in drafting a report that will recommend the vision and shape of a post-2015 development agenda that responds to the global challenges of the 21st century.

Last week, in an effort to inform the writing of this report, HLP members received a consensus brief, Equitable Learning for All elaborating on a vision and goal for education within the post-2015 development process. This brief was developed in response to members of the HLP’s request for consensus from the education community around a specific theme and vision for the post-2015 agenda. It was developed from an analysis of the many voices that have provided input for the post-2015 education consultation process, and it has been endorsed by 93 civil society organizations (CSOs) and other partners around the world, the vast majority of which are from the global south.

Given the role that quality education and learning play in empowering people to make informed decisions that impact their families’ well-being and equip them with the skills to live healthy and productive lives, the brief recommends that the post-2015 development agenda include education as a cross-cutting issue that affects all development goals. In addition, it calls for an explicit education goal focused on ‘equitable learning for all,’ encompassing equity, learning and the need for a learning continuum from early childhood through to adolescence. The brief states that the post-2015 development framework must focus on reducing the learning gap between the poorest and richest children, and girls and boys, through targets that promote equity, emphasizing the need for particular attention to rising inequality within countries. Finally the brief identifies six measures for tracking learning for all at the global level drawn from the work of the Learning Metrics Task Force, itself a global effort engaging over 800 people across 70 countries, the majority of which are from the global south.

Voices from the Global South

Civil society organizations play key roles in working with communities to ensure that global and national-level policies reach those for whom they are intended. As such, CSOs are strong advocates for social change at the community level, with their success rooted in their ability to organize, build consensus and mobilize community stakeholders who are willing to work for the change they desire.

Therefore, local and national CSOs from Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, as well as regional and global CSOs such as the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE), the Global Fund for Women, Pratham and ASER Centre were eager to give input into and eventually sign onto this brief as a show of solidarity around a common global goal. Organizations requested their names be added while articulating the importance that they saw in having a unified global voice for action; for example:

Tanzania Home Economics Association stated: “because we believe [in] one voice to positive change and [that] Education is the only possible way to escape poverty…[we] would like to be officially signed on to the brief.”

“[We] ask you to have Chikanta’s name added to the brief as a sign of consensus around the importance of equity, learning, and the need for a learning continuum…. Indeed we would like to take part.” – Chikanta Community Schools Development Zambia.

“African democracy and good governance will not prosper without investing in education. We strongly support united international action for access to quality education for all and let the post 2015 MDGs speak!” – Pemba Island Relief Organization (PIRO) in Tanzania.

CSOs are already working to improve learning within their communities. Building consensus with and among them will only lead to faster change at the grass-roots level. Indeed, it is through the consensus building amongst and between CSOs, and the many stakeholders invested in educational improvement, that an equitable learning for all agenda can gain momentum and have a real chance to succeed beyond the pages of a post-2015 framework. Hopefully members of the HLP will heed this call.