Gearing up for 2015 and beyond

World leaders making promises at the World Summit 2000.

World leaders making promises at the World Summit 2000.

 

“Eradicating extreme poverty continues to be one of the main challenges of our time, and is a major concern of the international community. Ending this scourge will require the combined efforts of all, governments, civil society organizations and the private sector, in the context of a stronger and more effective global partnership for development. The Millennium Development Goals set timebound targets, by which progress in reducing income poverty, hunger, disease, lack of adequate shelter and exclusion — while promoting gender equality, health, education and environmental sustainability — can be measured. They also embody basic human rights — the rights of each person on the planet to health, education, shelter and security. The Goals are ambitious but feasible and, together with the comprehensive United Nations development agenda, set the course for the world’s efforts to alleviate extreme poverty by 2015. “

United Nations Secretary-General BAN Ki-moon

 

The year 2015, which is fast approaching, is one of particular significance to groups and individuals that have campaigned for a more just and inclusive education system. Next year we can expect to see a plethora of publications either celebrating great educational achievements, or decrying the failure of governments in many countries to make adequate educational provision for significant numbers of their population. I anticipate that during this period we will see some careful massaging of figures by the governments of some countries and significant hand wringing by politicians and agencies in the more economically advantaged countries of the world. This will be followed by a collective finger pointing and the apportioning of blame, and by calls from some quarters to renew efforts in the fight to eradicate poverty, whilst others will gaze inwardly and say that we should look after “our own” rather than focusing upon the needs of others.

The reason that the year 2015 assumes such significance is related to the eight Millennium Development Goals agreed by the majority of the world’s governments in September 2000 with the laudable aims of improving the lives of millions of people who live in poverty and have poor access to decent health and education services and in communities that are becoming increasingly less sustainable. Present at the momentous signing of the document introducing the goals were 149 Heads of State and Government and high-ranking officials from over 40 other countries. When these goals were published a target date of 2015 was established with a view that significant progress would by then have been made towards their attainment.

Many recent reports have highlighted the progress made in addressing issues that impact upon the quality of life of people living in economically disadvantaged situations. The United Nations Millennium Development Goals Report 2013 highlights a number of successes:-

  • The proportion of people living in extreme poverty has been halved at the global level
  • Over 2 billion people gained access to improved sources of drinking water
  • Remarkable gains have been made in the fight against malaria and tuberculosis
  • The proportion of slum dwellers in the cities and metropolises of the developing world is declining
  • A low debt burden and an improved climate for trade are levelling the playing field for developing countries
  • The hunger reduction target is within reach

We should, of course, celebrate the endeavours that have led to progress in this areas. However the language used in emphasising this progress is interesting and whilst highlighting undoubted achievements should give us cause to exercise a little caution. Terms like “improved” and “within reach” are a sure indication that whilst the journey is underway, the destination may be some way off.

It is quite right that we should applaud the efforts made by governments, by NGOs and by other civil organisations and individuals to achieve goals that would improve the lives of many millions of people. In 2015 a full appraisal of the progress made will lead to the setting of a further tranche of targets and may even identify new areas of concern. The fact that a further set of goals is seen as necessary is in itself an indication of the global challenges that continue to blight the lives of many, and perhaps a reason to re-examine the ways in which actions are taken to achieve the desired outcomes.

For those of us working in education and other caring professions, the need to emphasise a significant weakness in the existing Millennium Development Goals is apparent. A report issued by the Global Campaign for Education Equal Right – Equal Opportunity: Inclusive Education for Children with Disabilities highlights a significant omission in the original goals. One of the staggering statistics included in this report emphasises that of the 57 million children worldwide estimated to still be missing out on school, more than 40% are thought to be disabled. As the authors of the report state:-

“The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), designed to combat extreme poverty, remarkably, failed to mention the one billion people across the world with disabilities – the largest ‘marginalised’ group and often among the poorest citizens in any country. There is no mention of disability in any of the 8 goals, 21 targets or 60 indicators.”

When the post-2015 development document is written it is to be hoped that this serious omission is addressed. In many countries as wealth has increased and the social and economic conditions of many have improved the gap between these more fortunate individuals  and those who are most disadvantaged has widened.

The introduction of the Millennium Development Goals was a tremendous initiative and has undoubtedly helped to maintain a focus on the challenges faced by a significant proportion of the world’s population. Let’s hope that in 2030 the need to update the goals and set yet more new targets will no longer exist.

The report of the Global Campaign for Education, Equal Right – Equal Opportunity: Inclusive Education for Children with Disabilities can be accessed via the link below.

http://www.campaignforeducation.org/en/campaigns/education-and-disability

 

7 thoughts on “Gearing up for 2015 and beyond

  1. Hi Richard, have been busy with admissions and Parent Adult Interactions. The RTE buzz is going on everywhere. I have heard school officials say, we have completed all formalities. Yes, we understand that, don’t we? But what about preparing to face the new challenges that will arise. What about sensitising parents not about the issues the school has been facing with respect to admissions, declaring the list of admitted candidates, funds etc. I have been hearing people passing comments like, ” what to do, this RTE is not allowing us to take any decision, everything is getting delayed, we would want to close on this, RTE has no clue what they are doing, RTE has not given any guidelines, they have not specified anything with respect to children with special needs and so on and so forth. I have not come across one school that has said – Yes, there are loop holes but we are preparing ourselves to meet the needs of every child and any child. We are glad that we will now be reaching out to more children, we have started working on learning different ways of including these children together…..As people we do not think of inclusion unless it is enforced. Why should we wait for RTE to specify about children with special needs, why can’t w equip ourselves to help every child? What are the issues, is it lack of funds, lack of personnel or lack of interest and the will to do it? I often have sat and thought, ” I have issues in Math, I have a short temper, I am impatient, I don’t give in easily, I argue and question a lot – I have so many features that can actually be considered as issues or are issues but yet I have been included in society. So, why can’t I include others?”
    The campaign starts within us and comes out in groups and forums. I hope more people will join in and actually work towards inclusion with a will to do so and not just due to enforcement and regulation.

  2. Hi Savitha,
    You are quite right, inclusion begins with a personal commitment. We must not leave this to others but must lead by example. India has a fine record in this regard – consider the work of Vinobe Bhave. He didn’t simply identify a problem and wait for others to solve it, he set an example by going out and demanding change. This is the only way that the RTE will succeed. Keep up the good work.

  3. RTE is a burden at certain levels.The lack of understanding in the parents,the government that lacks vision…..We cannot fight all that. But to completely remain committed to educate every child holistically can be our only endeavour.
    Poverty will not end unless the organised religions,organised national borders and organised market systems break down.
    All these have to break down first in the core of my heart and psyche.

  4. Hi Satish,
    As always you make profound comments to make us all think – I appreciate this greatly, it stops me from becoming even more lazy than I usually am. You are quite right about the borders and barriers that inhibit progress to wards justice. For this reason I do not see the RTE as a burden, it is our limited interpretation of it that is at fault. Similarly, it is our own limited imagination that prevents us from moving forward. If there is lack of understanding, and I believe you are right in emphasising this, then surely it is our responsibility to educate. Understanding is only achieved when we confront our fear and ignorance. The greatest sin is to simply complain that all is not well with the world and sit on our hands. It is beholding of you and I who have had the privilege of education and an opportunity to see the world and debate issues with our peers to encourage others to join the discussion. Are we talking only to the converted? If this is the case then it is both a comfortable and futile position in which we find ourselves. Thank you for posting, let’s see if together we can draw others into the debate.

  5. Interestingly, they have just posted tonight that they are off to Papua New Guinea as their next VSO posting in April.

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