September: The integral right to education

September: The integral right to education r1 ...

September @ SOVI

Image shows a man at a protest holding a sign reading,

Image shows a man at a protest holding a sign reading, "Think. Feel. Do. Fully fund learning and unlearning, culturally responsive curriculum." The protest focused on racial equity in Philadelphia schools.

FEATURE INTERVIEW

For many, the beginning of September signals back to school. With it, we are reminded of how integral the human right of education is.

It’s the focus year-round for folks at Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, a human rights non-profit that seeks to achieve gender equality by enhancing education and literacy for women and girls in Afghanistan. The organization actively provides education programming for students and their families, along with training for educationalists and teachers. Additionally, they work to educate Canadians about human rights violations in Afghanistan. SOVI spoke with CW4WAfghan’s senior director, Murwarid Ziayee, who is responsible for program management, and supporting public engagement outreach and fund development for the organization.

How has CW4WAfghan had to shift and reconfigure in the last year since the Taliban’s ban on girls’ education past primary school?

Unfortunately, our work changed significantly last August, as it has for all of Afghanistan. It took a while to adapt– we never questioned if we would continue our work, just how. We’ve had to ensure the safety of our staff on the ground, as well as the program beneficiaries. We’ve also had to consider how we can reach folks now. Most of our programs are now running as they were, but we’ve expanded and extended. For example, we have an online platform that we established in 2010 that’s been expanded to other areas now, and translated into 9 languages: English, two Afghan national languages and six minority languages. That platform is called the Darakht-e Danesh Library, and its partner DD Courses allows people to take free, self-paced courses in a variety of subjects with online and offline accessibility. On the same platform we established DD Classroom, which is an online school. With the ban, we asked, “How can we build a school?” The platform now provides access to school curriculum, and people can actually enroll from anywhere in the world, though it’s targeted at Afghanistan.

Another change we made was to our Shafia Fund Scholarship, which helps support the cost of getting an education. Originally, it was for only girls or women in Afghanistan, but in the past year we’ve broadened it to include people who have had to flee the country in the past year. Since COVID-19, we’ve also developed “learning baskets” that include learning material for children as well as essential food for the family, since we know COVID-19 led to a huge amount of jobs lost.

What are the biggest challenges in implementing programming to improve education on an international level?

A big challenge is access to technology, devices and the Internet, while also building the skills to use technology. Many practitioners in Afghanistan are unfamiliar with teaching online, so it’s a big area to prepare human resources. Providing capacity building, funding good Internet connection, and getting devices to the hands of students and teachers is key to improving international education.

How does CW4WAfghan garner engagement to support its work?

We were founded on the principles of networking and partnership, and the work of members and volunteers; it’s always been our area of focus. We focus on public engagement activities like webinars, networking with like minded organizations, public statements, and inviting Canadians to our meetings to learn about the issues. We have speakers at various events, including schools and universities to make people aware, and to introduce the tools they’ll need to help!

As with any development work, international education efforts originating from the Global North are at risk of acting as a Eurocentric, colonizing force. How does CW4WAfghan work to avoid this issue?

We’ve actually been working on a project that relates to this problem. We’re currently working with partners in Pakistan and Nepal in the same document to develop a course that will be used in all three countries, called Knowledge Innovation Exchange. Experts are developing the course’s theory and practice, and then we localize it using case studies, contextualization, and cultural relevance. Using the tools we have, we’re able to integrate the local language and education systems into the course, to make it better suited to individual countries. It’s been a great learning process to share experiences with people in school leadership from three different countries– we learn what works and what doesn’t, about best practices, and to collaborate.

How can folks support development work mindfully, and do you have any tips for assessing what nonprofits and organizations to support?

My advice would be to get involved now, because globalization will only continue to make us one community. It’s important to find a cause you’re passionate about and to consider what your values are, before finding an organization to work with. Whether it’s poverty, healthcare, or education, what do you truly believe in? For us, education is everything. When the Taliban took everything from people, they couldn’t take their education. We want to attract people who feel the same, specifically when it comes to Afghanistan. Everyone has expertise to provide to an organization, and building awareness in your own community is key.

CHAPTER NEWS

It was a pleasure to continue SOVI ARCoP meetings throughout the summer! Our August meeting was led by one of our insightful members, Cara Gibson. We watched the documentary Feminist on Cellblock Y and read bell hooks' essay 'Love as the Practice of Freedom,’ before discussing how moving towards practices of love in community can create opportunities for change and collective action.

RECENTLY

Image is an illustration for International Literacy Day. A green tree has six branches, and on each branch is a vignette of a different type of learning. In the top left two women read to a child, in the top right a person is in online school and sat at a desk. In the middle left are three Muslim women walking to school. On the left is an older man reading at home. On the bottom left are three people of different ages studying in a classroom. On the right is a teacher reading allowed to her young students at school. The main colours in the illustration are green and blue. September 8th is International Literacy Day, an occasion to stress the importance of literacy in the ongoing pursuit of sustainable societies. At least 771 million people lack basic literacy skills today, and COVID-19 and global conflict continue to threaten global education. In 2022, around 23 countries have been unable to reopen schools, putting millions of students at risk of dropping out. Some of the longest and uninterrupted closures are in Latin America and the Caribbean, with estimated learning losses of 1.5 years. Further, there are “massive education interruptions” in conflict zones like Ukraine, Afghanistan, Myanmar and beyond–a startling statistic as studies show education directly reduces conflict. The global community must fight vehemently for equal education access, whilst remaining critical of how education development work can be a force of colonization. The “ideal rational scientific model” that pervades educational thinking and practices was developed in the global North, and Eurocentric curricula are thrust upon learners everywhere. To decolonize schools, experts suggest reassessing “teaching, research, institutions, estates and reparations,” and advocating for proportional representation, better advocacy for Indigenous, racialized, and low-income students, and the inclusion of non-Western perspectives and practices in curricula. This shift should be recognized worldwide, at all levels. Some Canadian universities, like the University of Victoria, have taken steps to problematize educational colonization by formally recognizing the settler advantage and pervasiveness of Eurocentric education. The university provides resources and guides encouraging students and staff to decolonize their learning. Still, we have a long way to go in transforming educational spaces.

WHAT'S NEXT...

  • Native Students Union Moving Screening I September 14th I UVIC NSU
  • European Association for International Education Conference I September 13-16 I EAIE
    • Europe’s largest international education event of the year embraces the ever-expanding spectrum of tools for internationalisation. It will explore how practitioners can draw on a diverse pallet to paint a vivid and inclusive picture of our shared future, through sessions, networking, and keynote speakers.
    • Register for the virtual portion of the conference, here.
  • Decolonising Education: Cosmologies of a Palestinian Refugee Camp I September 15th I Decolonising Peace for Education in Africa
    • Decolonizing education through practices involving community, place, and alternative learning can challenge Eurocentric domination on education. As Palestinian refugee communities face difficulty expressing their knowledge through the Humanitarian-aid educational institutions, we ask how they may provide education that meets their needs, tells their story and responds to their unique livelihood.

    • Register for this webinar, here.
  • Indigenous Ways of Knowing: Navigating Higher Education I September 21st I SNIWWOC
    • As part of a continuing series examining various aspects of Indigenous life in the urban environment, This episode highlights the ways in which Indigenous people are navigating higher education, the means of support we are creating within education institutions and the impact of culturally relevant learning models.

    • Sign up to join the conversation, here.
  • Morning Coffee Series: BC Council for International Education I Fall 2022 I BCCIE
    • Season 3 of the Morning Coffee Series begins this fall! Take ten minutes out of your week to explore the issues and topics critical to international education today by learning from IE pioneers, leaders, and innovators!
    • Tune in, here.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

“Education is a human right with immense power to transform. On its foundation rest the cornerstones of freedom, democracy and sustainable human development.”

- Kofi Annan

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