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Tribune News Network
Education advocates told Qatar Foundation’s Doha Debates’ #DearWorldLive programme that better teaching in schools is needed to empower young people to help bridge polarised differences on the most pressing issues of our time.
The programme featured solutions from three education activists: Jayathma Wickramanayake, the United Nations Secretary-Envoy General’s on Youth; Dr. Fatima Akilu, a Nigerian psychologist and expert on countering violent extremism; and Julia Gillard, former Australian Prime Minister and chair of the Global Partnership for Education. According to Wickramanayake, young people are uniquely positioned to combat polarisation. They are not only incredibly resilient, but they also “have the fantastic ability to reach across the divide and build coalitions to drive towards a common goal, often by holding previous generations’ leaders accountable.”
Wickramanayake argued that “affordable, accessible, and quality education is one of the most important tools at our disposal in combating social inequalities, which will help us deal with polarisation.”
Dr. Akilu, the director of Nigeria’s Neem Foundation, said: “We see polarisation because schools are not as inclusive of differences. “We must not only look at education in terms of numbers, but in terms of content. When we talk about education, we just talk about people being in school, but we have to talk about how [you are] taught to navigate your way around differences.”
To address these challenges, she said, “Education must always adapt.” Curriculums must constantly evolve,” and that it is critical to address issues of access and funding more spaces for girls and more equality within the education system. Gillard, the Global Partnership for Education’s board chair, said, “Building back better would mean putting gender equality right at the center of decision-making and ensuring that every child could get a great quality education.”
Otherwise, she warned, “I see another future, and it’s the one we need to avoid, and it’s the one in which government budgets are really hit by the economic shock of COVID-19, [and] governments withdraw their expenditure on education.” This reinforces pre-existing inequalities based on poverty, race, and gender. That, in my opinion, is the future we must reject.”
The season three premiere episode of #DearWorldLive took place in conjunction with the education-focused SXSW EDU Conference & Festival, where Doha Debates is a featured exhibitor. The live broadcast drew over 250,000 viewers from around the world.
The show featured comments and questions from people all over the world, including Bhagyashree Prabhutendolkar, an Indian student and the founder of Youth Magazine.
Prabhutendolkar said: “Progress can only happen when you realize that learning should be endless. As a student, you never just stick to textbooks — especially in this polarised world.”
Viewers of the #DearWorldLive interactive programme commented on the disparity between countries that can use technology and thus excel and those that are left behind.
“I’m very concerned about the future of African education if this [COVID] situation continues,” a viewer in Rwanda said. Many countries and schools around the world are turning to distance learning, but I do not believe it will work well in many African countries due to existing inequalities and limited resources.”
Chayanne Malik, another viewer, wrote, “Education is a means to explore the united world rather than a polarised world.”
This programme, as well as all #DearWorldLive episodes, is available on Doha Debates’ Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube pages, as well as at DohaDebates.com/DearWorldLive.
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