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Unesco: 222 million dreams for the human family

By Yasmine Sherif, Director, Education Cannot Wait

We have come so far as a global human family. While we can and should celebrate the progress being made towards ensuring universal human rights and growing together as a human family, we are also falling behind on our global commitments to provide every child on the planet with access to quality education, as outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

We are falling behind on our promises of a world without hunger and poverty. And we are falling behind in our collective efforts to address climate change, COVID-19, armed conflicts, forced displacement and other global crises that continue to mar and disrupt our efforts to create a more just, more equal, more peaceful world for all.

None of these commitments can be realized without ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all, SDG 4.

Vision needs action

In June 2022, Education Cannot Wait (ECW), the UN global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, announced shocking new figures indicating that the number of crisis-impacted school-age children requiring urgent educational support has grown from an estimated 75 million in 2016 to 222 million today.

This is unacceptable. This means 222 million dreams dashed, 222 million opportunities arrested, 222 million potentials unfulfilled. 222 million children and youth in the most crisis-affected parts of the globe who will never be empowered to tell their story.

We must take urgent collective action as a human family before it gets even worse, and before we see entire generations lost in places like Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Ukraine and Yemen.

Of the 222 million crisis-affected children and adolescents in need of urgent educational support, the study indicates that as many as 78.2 million are completely out of school, and close to 120 million are in school, but not achieving minimum proficiency in mathematics or reading. In fact, just 1 in 10 crisis-impacted children attending primary or secondary education are actually achieving these proficiency standards. This must change.

Think about these numbers from a global perspective. 222 million is more than the total population of Germany, the United Kingdom and Italy combined. 222 million girls and boys who require educational support now simply because they are caught in war zones, displacement and other interconnected crises. None of their own making.

Think about what an education could mean for an individual girl in Afghanistan or a boy fleeing violence in the Lake Chad Region? Now think about the vast potential of investments in education. The World Bank indicates that every $1 spent on girls’ education generates approximately $2.80 in return. And ensuring that all girls complete their secondary education could boost developing countries’ GDP by an average of 10% over the next decade.

Transforming education

Transforming education also means transforming how we respond to investing in the next generation. Are we ready to leave behind the world’s 222 million most vulnerable children? Transformation requires crowding in global resources and advancing universal partnerships that propel evidenced-based and inclusive results. It requires building a true global movement that will activate action from the ground up and be responsive from the top-down in how and why we invest in education.

All eyes are turning now to the UN Secretary-General’s Transforming Education Summit in September 2022. The Summit seeks to mobilize political ambition, action, solutions and solidarity to transform education: to take stock of efforts to recover pandemic-related learning losses; to ensure that every child and adolescent receives a quality education of twelve years, to reimagine education systems for the world of today and tomorrow; and to revitalize national and global finances and resources to achieve SDG 4.

Since ECW was formed in 2016, I have been meeting with governments, donors, UN agencies, civil society organizations, children and youth and other key partners to transform our approach to delivering education in emergencies and protracted crises interventions. I’ve met with Leonardo Garnier, the UN’s Special Advisor to the Transforming Education Summit, at the UN Transforming Education Pre-Summit in Paris, hosted by UNESCO. I’ve met with a variety of private sector stakeholders such as the LEGO Foundation and CISCO at the World Economic Forum in Davos. We all have a shared vision.

Most importantly, I’ve met with hundreds of crisis-affected girls and boys in places like Afghanistan, Cameroon and Moldova, who dream to one day become teachers, lawyers, nurses, engineers, journalists, doctors and astronauts. They are our vision.

From these experiences, three key lessons arise that we must keep front and center as we align these global actions in advance of the Summit.

First of all, children and youth must come first. At Transforming Education pre-Summit, Kenisha Arora, Youth Representative of the SDG 4 High-Level Steering Committee, made a strong case for education: “When people are educated, society is transformed. Financial literacy becomes financial freedom and economic development. Digital literacy becomes digital transformation. Climate literacy becomes climate action.” We must enlist the power and hope of these strong youth voices in realizing #222MillionDreams. They will be the leaders of tomorrow.

Second, we must empower and support the global south to invest in education. This can happen through substantive financial support for multi-year programmes, bridging the humanitarian-development-peace nexus. As the President of Ethiopia and Chair of the UNESCO International Commission on the Futures of Education, Sahle-Work Zewde, stated at the pre-Summit: we must “strengthen public dialogue and more inclusive participation that brings in those who are often excluded.” The will is there, but often the resources are lacking.

Third, we cannot do it alone. One of the key opportunities coming from the Transforming Education Summit and Education Cannot Wait’s High-Level Financing Conference in February 2023, is to inspire political and public support for education in emergencies and rally public, private sector, foundations and high-net-worth individual donor funding to catalyze collective action. UN Secretary-General António Guterres continues to provide inspiring leadership in connecting various partners as we build a global movement to leave no child behind.

In his public statement of support for ECW’s #222MillionDreams campaign and our upcoming February #HLFC2023, UN-SG Guterres stated: “Around the world, 222 million children are having their education cruelly interrupted. Their dreams for the future are snatched away by conflicts, displacement and climate disasters. We need governments, businesses, foundations and individuals to support the vital work of ECW. And we need their ideas and innovations as we look ahead to September’s Transforming Education Summit. Help us place education within reach of every child, everywhere. Help us keep 222 million dreams alive.” Let us empower these millions of children and youth through a vision come true.

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Nigeria: To transform education, we need qualified, motivated and supported teachers

By the co-Leads of the thematic Action Track on teachers, teaching and the teaching profession, representatives of Nigeria, Romania and the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030

Ahead of the Transforming Education Summit in September, education ministers along with hundreds of youth, teachers and other stakeholders are meeting this week in Paris to revitalize efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 4 and transform education. Together, they are considering how to deliver on existing commitments and identifying new ways to recover pandemic-related learning losses and transform our education systems for sustainable futures. To help the education community get back on track and give new life to efforts to achieve SDG 4 between now and 2030, today we are launching a campaign to put teachers, teaching and the teaching profession at the heart of education transformation.

Barriers to the teaching profession are barriers to quality education

Putting qualified and motivated teachers into classrooms is the single most important thing we can do to support better learning outcomes. In many parts of the world, teachers are too few, classrooms are too crowded, and teachers are overworked, demotivated and unsupported, with the result that learning outcomes suffer. Alongside the educational disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, the quantitative and qualitative “teacher gap” is throwing our education targets, including SDG 4, way off track. Children in remote or poor areas are disproportionately affected.

More teachers are desperately needed. Globally, we are still millions of teachers short: recent estimates point to sub-Saharan Africa alone needing 15 million teachers to achieve SDG 4 by 2030. Compounding the teacher shortage, in many countries, teachers lack minimum qualifications and training.

Even if teachers are qualified, teacher retention rates are often low since poor working conditions and lack of support drive teachers to change careers. Too often, becoming a teacher is not seen as an attractive career path because the profession is poorly paid and poorly regarded. In many countries, teachers are simply not being paid a living wage, further undermining education systems.

The use of digital technology in education holds much promise for opening up learning to more children and young people. However, we need to improve access to technology for both teachers and learners, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and low-income countries where on average less than 1 in 3 schools have computers for learning and fewer than 1 in 5 have internet. We also need to better prepare teachers to adapt their teaching so that ICTs are used as a means to an end, not as an end in itself.

#TeachersTransform learning

During the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers were resourceful in continuing to educate and innovate in difficult circumstances. They forged new ways of teaching and engaging their students. Importantly, they supported students beyond academic learning, contributing to their well-being. In Rwanda, teachers innovated by using play-based learning to help rebuild students’ well-being following school closures and lockdowns. In Uganda, teachers used the radio to address learning gaps and to provide professional and well-being support to remote teachers affected by isolation.

Teachers know how to achieve the best learning outcomes for their classrooms and they should be given autonomy to organize and adapt to the changing needs of their students. This kind of flexibility has the potential to foster both bottom-up (grassroots) and top-down (system-wide) transformations. To support such efforts, school leaders should be given more autonomy and responsibility. And particular attention must be given to teachers working with displaced and refugee populations and those affected by conflict, including the educators themselves.

Governments and civil society must work together to build respect and trust for teachers and appreciation for the role teachers play in educating future generations. Serious commitment and investment are needed to grow the teacher workforce, improve training and support, include teachers in decision-making and raise the profession’s status.

Education systems need to transform to better support the teaching profession

To genuinely transform education, we must build a workforce of teachers who are engaged, respected and properly resourced. Consultations held as part of the thematic Action Track on teachers, teaching and the teaching profession have suggested three ways in which we can achieve this goal.

First, comprehensive national policies for the teaching profession need to be developed. These policies must provide stronger scaffolding for teacher preparation, career paths and governance, and should also lay out ways to empower leadership and promote innovation, develop qualitative frameworks and provide better work conditions.

Secondly, we need teacher participation in every step of decision-making and policy-making, through robust social dialogue. Teachers were at the forefront of the education response to COVID-19 and are best placed to address learning gaps and long-term learning solutions in the pandemic’s aftermath.

And lastly, we need to increase investment in wages, professional development and working conditions. As part of this, governments must honour their commitment of 20% annual expenditure on education. Domestic education budgets must grow and international donors need to increase levels of education aid to meet the benchmark of 0.7% of gross national income. Teacher policies should be properly costed and effectively implemented, especially in countries with the most severe shortages.

Much work remains to be done, but one thing is clear: teachers are central to transforming education and alleviating the global education crisis. Only together can we reimagine education and deliver on the promise of quality education for all.

Join the #TeachersTransform campaign launched today by the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030, as part of the thematic Action Track on teachers, teaching and the teaching profession. More information here.

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Unesco: Teachers are often trained in private institutions

The UNESCO World Higher Education Conference (#WHEC2022) started yesterday, aiming to reshape ideas and practices in higher education to ensure sustainable development. To feed into the discussions, we have released a new policy paper on the role and impact of non-state actors in tertiary education. One of the interesting findings illustrates the not-often mentioned role of non-state actors in teacher education, particularly in the Global South, which this blog explores.

As the new paper shows, non-state teacher training institutions operate in at least 22 sub-Saharan African, 17 Latin American and 7 South Asian countries. Non-state actors have made an important contribution to teacher education programmes in conflict-affected countries. In Afghanistan, non-state teacher training colleges were established in each province, along with rural college satellites to facilitate access for those in remote areas. In Angola and Mozambique, DAPP, a non-governmental organization (NGO), has played a key role in teacher training, in collaboration with the governments. In Somalia, where the main public institutions for teacher education were destroyed during the civil war, non-state actors have trained most teachers since 2002.

These teacher training programmes tend to be government regulated: State and non-state providers largely follow a centralized curriculum or qualification framework. In India, the government regulates minimum qualifications for trainers in both sectors, as well as the level of fees. In Mozambique, state and non-state institutions follow the same criteria and conditions for admission. In recent years, non-state teacher training institutions have been closed in Chile, Colombia and Ecuador for failing to meet minimum quality standards. In Costa Rica, poorly regulated non-state institutions offer programmes from which students graduate in considerably less time than required by public programmes.

But, non-state teacher training programmes are increasingly available by distance, which raises concern about the lack of a practical component. In response, some countries, including Chile and Mexico, have banned such programmes. In Brazil, where the law gives preference to teacher education conducted in person, as the figure below shows, 67% of entrants in initial teacher education enrolled in distance courses; of those, over 95% were at non-state institutions. In Botswana, difficulties in regulating the large number of online programmes offered by non-state institutions leave many unaccredited and likely substandard. Pakistan developed national standards in 2016 to accredit distance teacher education programmes and thus increase regulatory oversight over them.

The recommendations from our new paper, which echo those of the 2021/2 Global Education Monitoring Report, aim to harness non-state actors’ contributions without sacrificing standards or accessibility. They call on governments to ensure that, regardless of how state and non-state actors share responsibility, the tertiary education system continues to strive for more quality and equity.

  • Design laws, policies and programmes from an equity and inclusion perspective. Ensure that tertiary education financing does not favour some learners and exclude others. Increased cost sharing with households must be met with strong student financial support systems. Any attempts to diversify provision should be designed in a way that ensures equity.
  • Establish quality standards that apply to all state and non-state education institutions. Countries need stronger quality assurance processes. For-profit universities have come under scrutiny for offering lower-quality education and engaging in malpractice.
  • Establish common monitoring and support processes that apply to all state and non-state education institution Regulations need to be simple, transparent and efficient. Lack of monitoring capacity has led to corruption in cases involving non-state actors in tertiary education, with issues such as illegal admissions, aggressive marketing, unfair treatment of staff and embezzlement of subsidies.
  • Maintain the transparency and integrity of the public education policy process to block vested interests. Policymakers need to take into account insights and perspectives from all stakeholders, not just the powerful. Governments need to maintain trust in public policy processes through measures that promote transparency, including safeguarding against lobbying and revolving door practices.

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Schools are being attacked in Ukraine

On March 4, a high school was destroyed by air warfare in the city of Zhytomyr, Ukraine. There were no children in the school, which was closed as a result of the war, but teachers were found hiding in the basement after the strikes had ended.

Attacks that indiscriminately strike civilian objects, such as schools, violate international humanitarian law and would constitute a war crime. Schools should be entitled to heightened protections as long as they are not used for military purposes.

There are no verifiable statistics given the current circumstances of the number of schools that have been attacked in Ukraine, although one figure circulating on global media cites 211 schools so far. The conflict in eastern Ukraine since 2014 had already destroyed, damaged or forced the closure of more than 750 schools, according to Save the Children.

 

While all evidence online needs to be verified, many individual examples of school attacks can be found on Twitter, including a hole in the wall of a school caused by a missile, a video of a kindergarten blown to bits in Kharkiv, and photos of a kindergarten destroyed in Chernihiv. Amnesty International also confirmed that a 220mm Uragan rocket dropped cluster munitions on the Sonechko nursery and kindergarten in the town of Okhtyrka in Sumy Oblast, where local people were seeking safety from the fighting.

Despite the mounting evidence, the Russian military is denying targeting residential areas.

Quite apart from the long-term damage this bombardment will cause to Ukraine’s education system, the conflict has also created a more immediate challenge for the education of the country’s children and youth right now. There are well over 1.7 million people already on the move out of Ukraine. As was documented in the 2019 GEM Report on migration and displacement, it is vital that these children are quickly integrated into local schools, and their language and psychosocial needs met. Teachers will also require support to cope with their experiences and to find work in new countries.

There will be no child untouched by this fight. The determination and energy of high school students filmed in this video near the start of the war is something we should support as they cross into neighbouring countries looking for safe havens.

Our latest 2012/2 GEM Report reported against SDG Indicator 4.a.3, which serves to monitor the number of attacks on students, personnel and institutions. The data for this indicator are compiled by the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA), of which the GEM Report is a member, and are based on observations and reports by various actors on the ground.

In 2011, our team produced the 2011 GEM Report and turned the world’s attention to education in conflict.  The volume of support for the messages in the Report resulted in a new UN Resolution recognizing attacks on schools as violations of human rights.

All attacks on schools are indiscriminate. There is no excuse.

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The implications of school choice in the United States

By Frank Adamson, Assistant Professor of Education Leadership and Policy Studies at California State University, Sacramento and author of a background paper for the 2021/2 GEM Report

The title of the 2021/2 GEM Report, Who chooses? Who loses? invokes the notion of ‘school choice’, a term encapsulating Milton Friedman’s market-based theory that if students choose schools, those schools must outcompete each other for customers (students), with this competition yielding higher quality education.  By asking Who chooses?, the report raises the issue that schools may actually choose students instead of students choosing schools. The second question of Who loses? self-evidently addresses the global reality that many students lack sufficient educational opportunity.

This blog addresses findings from the GEM report in the context of the United States in three key areas: segregation, competition, and state responsibility.

Education segregation in the United States

Segregation directly addresses the GEM Report’s second question of Who loses? The historical legacies of slavery and segregation in the United States created racial and class divisions that remain today, with segregation in education having increased over the last 30 years.

Despite the desegregation intention of the 1954 Brown vs. Board supreme court case, Jargowsky reports that students in primary and secondary education are “substantially more racially and economically segregated than people not enrolled in school”. Furthermore, our 2019 study found that students of colour in urban contexts often attend intensely segregated schools enrolling over 90% students of colour. Most identify education segregation and inequity as major problems, but market-based, competitive approaches have not alleviated these issues.

Education competition in the United States

Briefly, non-state actor involvement in the U.S. context usually means spending public tax dollars on self-managed schools (the charter school model) or giving students vouchers or tax credits (again tax dollars) to attend private schools, as outlined in the GEM Report (p. 47). Our 2019 analysis shows that charter schools account for 7% of all schools and 5.7% of all enrollments, while “vouchers account for merely 0.34% of U.S. national student enrollments” and “only 0.02% of families nationally participated in Individual Tax Credits, Tax Credit Scholarships, and Education Savings Accounts” (pp. 16-17). While these percentages may not appear substantial, localized analysis produces a very different picture.

The distribution of the most prevalent form of non-state actor involvement, charter schools, varies substantially across the country, with 57% of charters operating in urban environments despite only 25% of students living there. Within charter schools, African American and Latinx students are over-represented, while white students, who comprise around half of the public school population, account for only one-third of charter enrolments. Over 30 school districts in the country have greater than 25% charter school enrolment, including many large cities serving predominantly students of colour, such as New Orleans (93% charter enrolment), Detroit (53%), Washington D.C. (46%), Oakland, California (29%), and Los Angeles (26%).

A heat map of charter schools illustrates their over-representation in urban districts and reveals the intersection of longstanding education segregation by race and class through the targeted deployment of school choice in the form of charter schools.

Figure 1. United States school districts with charter school enrolment greater than 10%

Note: Visualization produced using data from the National Alliance for Public Charters, 2016 and adapted from Adamson, F. and Galloway, M. (2019) (EPAA open-source). Circle size proportional to enrolment.

The rise of charter schools has seen communities lose their public schools as policy-makers close them or convert them to charter schools. For instance, research in the Chicago system shows that, as education privatization increased citywide, African Americans became increasingly segregated into low-income and uni-racial schools due to both enrolment in charter schools and public school closures. Resistance to these school closings by the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, including a 34-day hunger strike, motivated members to create a national black-and-brown led organization called the Journey for Justice Alliance (J4J). Led by Jitu Brown, J4J now advocates in over 30 cities for education justice.

Competition in charter schools often leads to student selection, one of the most detrimental set of practices to educational equity. Selection occurs when schools counsel- or force-out students using different strategies, including a lack of transparency in registration practices, hints to parents that other schools would better serve their children, and schools finding reasons to suspend or expel students with low test scores.

None of these practices is hypothetical. I encountered them in countless interviews while researching a detailed report on New Orleans entitled Whose choice? that describes the myriad ways in which charter schools selected students and stratified the entire district. A new book by Welner and Mommandi, released last year, delves even further, describing 13 different ways in which charter schools choose students to shape their enrolment.

Examples of the cost of competition for students do not stem only from New Orleans and the United States. This GEM Report also describes the collateral damage of competition, noting that “non-state actors may increase cost-efficiency by hiring young or unqualified teachers” or that “non-state providers may be tempted to reduce inputs by focusing on subjects whose results are measured, which may matter for their funding” (p. 13). In these cases, the quality of education suffers through inexperienced teachers and/or truncated curriculum. Furthermore, when states allow, or even support, systems with these results, they abrogate their legal responsibility as the duty-bearer for the human right to education, as described in human rights law and The Abidjan Principles.

State responsibility in the United States

This third issue, state responsibility, starts with the acknowledgement that the pursuit of market-based approaches in the United States has exacerbated inequity and segregation in many contexts. A different course for public education provision could include investing in full-service community schools. According to J4J Alliance, these schools would have engaging, culturally relevant and challenging curriculum, educator roles in professional development and assessment design and use, and wrap around supports such as health and other care for students needing those services. Overall, the U.S. case provides an important and instructive example that other countries should examine before scaling up similar education approaches.

This brings us to a final international point about policy, politics, and influence. While the GEM Report does call attention to the myriad actors and political acrimony that divides opinion on the role of markets and governments in education, the report does not go far enough in naming the power asymmetries in terms of finance and access of different constituencies (e.g., technology companies and venture capital funds having orders of magnitude more resources and policy influence than civil society). To that end, I would add a third question to the report – Who chooses? Who loses? And who benefits? – to interrogate how non-state actors derive profit from the education sector and to help us remember that students should remain the recipients of our education expenditures and resources.

At a more fundamental level, the GEM Report could also have more explicitly identified who stands to benefit from different approaches. There is an inherent conflict of interest between the universal right to education and the goal of increasing profit. As we face increasing global challenges, we cannot afford to further fracture education provision by diluting public investment in the interest of private profit; instead, we must collectively deliver on the vision of the U.N. and treaty law that guarantees the right to a high-quality public education for all students.

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France: Appel fédéral – 27 janvier : augmenter les salaires et pensions c’est urgent !

Europe/France/28-01-2022/Auteur(s) et Source: www.ferc-cgt.org

L’inflation des produits de première nécessité, de l’alimentaire, de l’énergie, du carburant… aujourd’hui personne ne peut nier que les prix flambent et rendent les fins du mois toujours plus difficiles pour la plupart des travailleurs et travailleuses dans les champs de Éducation, de la recherche, de la formation professionnelle, de la culture, dans les associations. D’autant que ces dernier·es ne peuvent pas en dire autant de leurs salaires et pensions. Gel du point d’indice pour les agent·es de la Fonction publique, NAO en berne dans le privé, accord au rabais dans le sport, avenant dans l’animation qui ne compense pas l’inflation… Le pouvoir d’achat devient la priorité numéro 1 des jeunes, des salarié·es des secteurs du privé et du public, des privé·es d’emploi, des retraité·es.

Malgré cet état de fait, le gouvernement et le patronat restent sourds aux difficultés et aux revendications de la majorité des travailleur·ses et ne proposent que quelques mesurettes : primes Macron défiscalisées, l’indemnité inflation de 100 €, revalorisations salariales très insuffisantes… Et axent tout sur les propositions qui en définitive sont inégalitaires et temporaires, notamment l’ensemble de la rémunération au mérite.

Les propositions qui fleurissent comme la baisse des prix de certains produits (la fameuse « baguette à 29 cts d’euros), ou l’augmentation des salaires par la baisse de cotisations sociales sont des leurres ! Pour les premières, peut-on se satisfaire de sous-payer certaines productions dévalorisant ainsi le travail de certain·es et obérant des augmentations de salaires dans certains secteurs (comme l’énergie). Pour les secondes, faut-il rappeler que les cotisations sociales sont une partie intégrante du salaire (ce qu’on appelle le salaire socialisé) et permettent le financement de la Sécurité sociale (santé, retraite, assurance chômage, famille) de manière solidaire au nom du « chacun·e cotise selon ses moyens et reçoit selon ses besoins ». Les baisses et les exonérations, même si elles peuvent paraitre attrayantes dans l’immédiateté, sont en fait du vol de salaire !

Pour la FERC, la seule manière d’augmenter le pouvoir d’achat, c’est augmenter immédiatement et largement les salaires et pensions !

Elle revendique :

  • l’augmentation générale des salaires et dans l’immédiat une revalorisation uniforme de 400 euros (80 points d’indice pour la fonction publique pour tous les agent·es titulaires et non titulaires)
  • le SMIC à 2000 € bruts
  • le dégel du point d’indice
  • dans le privé, des négociations salariales de branches et d’entreprises portant sur les salaires réels, des augmentations régulières et la reconstruction des grilles de salaires garantis prenant en compte la qualification (avec un salaire de base) et l’expérience professionnelle
  • l’abandon de la rémunération « au mérite » source d’inégalités et favorisant le clientélisme et l’arbitraire de l’encadrement
  • une indexation du point d’indice garantissant le pouvoir d’achat
  • l’égalité salariale et professionnelle entre les femmes et les hommes
  • la réduction du temps de travail à 32 heures par semaine sans perte de salaire, ce qui équivaut à la création de 4,5 millions d’emplois
  • une revalorisation des pensions à hauteur de 2 000 euros
  • une augmentation des minima sociaux et de nouveaux droits pour les précaires et privés d’emploi

Pour toutes ces raisons, la FERC appelle l’ensemble des travailleurs et travailleuses à faire grève le 27 janvier et à participer aux manifestations qui auront lieu partout en France.

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Uganda schools reopen after almost two years of Covid closure

Africa/Uganda/14-01-2022/Author and Source: www.kbc.co.ke

Children in Uganda have expressed their joy at finally returning to school nearly two years after they were closed because of Covid.

“I am really excited because it’s been a long time without seeing our teachers. And we have missed out a lot,” Joel Tumusiime told the BBC.

“I am glad to be back at school,” echoed another, Mercy Angel Kebirungi.

But after one of the world’s longest school closures, authorities warned at least 30% of students may never return.

Some have started work, while others have become pregnant or married early, the country’s national planning authority said.

About 15 million students have been affected by the closure, the government says.

“We can’t let this happen again. We must keep schools open for every child, everywhere,” the UN children’s agency, Unicef, warned on Twitter.

Some classes reopened in October 2020 temporarily but closed again in May and June of the following year.

While schools were closed, there have been some lessons via the radio, TV and newspapers while some schools have provided printed materials, but these have not reached everyone.

Wealthier Ugandans have also been able to access online classes and home tutors.

But many children have not been to school for about 22 months.

One pupil explained how she continued learning during the long hiatus.

“My parents never had the time to study with me. When schools were closed, I was able to read, but on my own. Sometimes I would meet with friends to study,” said Christine Teburwa. Like Joel and Mercy, she is in Primary Five, meaning they are between nine and 11 years old.

Pupils who have not had any education since March 2020 will resume classes a year above where they were before the pandemic.

However, some parents in the capital, Kampala, questioned this.

“My children have not been learning at all. I wish they could be allowed to continue from where they stopped,” Rachael Nalumansi said.

“Before the first lockdown, our children had only been in school for two weeks. So it is a bit concerning that they are now promoting them to the next class,” Vanetta Bangi said.

For those students who have not accessed any form of studying during the pandemic, the curriculum will be abridged to focus on core areas and give them a chance to catch up.

Lessons were already underway at some schools I visited on Monday morning while at others, students were still cleaning classrooms and re-organising their desks. Others were still registering with the school administration.

Boarding school students in Kampala and the nearby districts will start throughout the week, to avoid congestion on public transport.

Despite authorities instructing that health and safety measures like masks and social distancing should be in place, not all institutions have the space or facilities to ensure that these steps are properly followed. Some have huge numbers of students and very few classrooms.

But it is not only learners who will struggle, but many parents’ incomes were also hit by the pandemic, and some will find it difficult to raise money for tuition fees and other school requirements.

The phased reopening of schools, which started in November with universities and higher education institutions, was pegged to the vaccination of over 550,000 teachers, their support staff, and students aged 18 and above.

Uganda, which has had some of the world’s strictest lockdowns, is now moving to fully reopen the economy despite being at the start of its third wave of the pandemic driven by the Omicron variant.

Source an Image: https://www.kbc.co.ke/uganda-schools-reopen-after-almost-two-years-of-covid-closure/

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