Are we prioritising the disenfranchised?
Wayne Campbell

Education is a human right.

Unfortunately, in many societies students do not live this reality. According to UNESCO's statistical data, an estimated 258 million children are not in school. The situation is worse for marginalised communities, those living in regions with higher inequality, and underdeveloped countries.

The bitter reality is that there are countless societies around the world today in which education is viewed as unnecessary. Additionally, there are also some societies, specifically Afghanistan, where barriers are constructed in order to discourage and even prosecute those children, especially girls, who seek an education.

The COVID-19 pandemic has prevented thousands of our students from accessing education. Many students have not returned to school, and even among those who have returned, the learning loss is great. Unfortunately, many students are still without technological gadgets necessary to log on to online platforms in order to access the various modalities.

In some countries, more so in the rural areas, internet connectivity has been problematic and those students continue to be underserved. The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified what we already knew regarding how social class and privilege determine students' access and, therefore, impacts educational outcomes.

In educational circles we continue to use the word transformation loosely, but the reality on the ground differs. It is time to transform education. Education should be viewed as a public good and the necessary resources must be found to underpin such an investment in the nation's human capital.

The fifth International Day of Education will be celebrated on January 24, 2023 under the theme 'To invest in people, prioritise education'. Building on the global momentum generated by the UN Transforming Education Summit.

UNESCO is dedicating this year's International Day of Education to girls and women in Afghanistan, who have been deprived of their right to education by the Taliban-controlled Government, and joins the global call for the immediate lifting of the ban restricting their access to education.

International Day of Education is a call for action, urging individuals, civil society, and policymakers to take solid steps towards ensuring that children have access to primary and secondary education, thereby equipping them with the education needed for employment and better futures.

It is estimated that 147 million children missed more than half of their in-class instruction over the past two years. This generation of children could lose a combined total of US$17 trillion in lifetime earnings in present value. School closures have affected girls, children from disadvantaged backgrounds, those living in rural areas, children with disabilities, and those from ethnic minorities more than their peers.

It would be useful to know the current status regarding how many Jamaican students did not return to school after the pandemic.

The society must also make a concerted effort regarding how to engage our boys in the teaching and learning journey. Currently, a significant number of Jamaican boys are being left behind by an education system which is hostile to how boys learn.

The sad reality is that gangs continue to benefit from the entrenched failure of our education system and this is played out in the troubling homicide rates. The 'Come as you are' motto of gangs is juxtaposed against the education ministry's 'Every Child Can Learn, Every Child Must Learn'.

The current state of affairs in our society can only be fixed through the transformation of the education system by pursuing policies involving parity and inclusion. The strengthening of partnerships, such as with the National Parent-Teacher Association of Jamaica (NPTAJ), is a necessary and critical investment if we truly are prioritising education.

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and/or gender issues. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or waykam@yahoo.com.

Wayne Campbell

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