Global Action Week and the Importance of Community Engagement

May 01, 2015Duncan McCullough

Every year, the Global Campaign for Education calls on advocates around the world to participate in a Global Action Week.  This year, the campaign falls at a pivotal time for global education.  The Global Monitoring Report has released its findings on Education for All, and the upcoming World Education Forum in Incheon, South Korea this May will begin new efforts to chart the new course forward.  The next several months will determine much of the framework for future education development through 2030.  The Global Campaign for Education is right to prioritize this period as a critical opportunity for education-advocates to focus their lobbying efforts.  But the work will not stop there.

Global Action Week will help to set the tone for global education’s burgeoning recalibration.  But the efforts and attention of committed activists in the field will continue long past these international conferences.  When the convenings have dispersed, and more agreements are signed, activists from the emerging nations themselves will play a vital role in ensuring that education remains a priority in their own communities.  Emerging education systems are counting on high-level officials to support their future growth.  But these systems will also need guidance and strength from grassroots leaders in order to maintain support for innovative reforms.  Without pressure from every level, the recent momentum of renewed commitments may stall.  This is why so many programs are dedicating themselves to prepare the next wave of local advocates.

In addition to its mentoring and childcare service provisions, the Active Inclusion Project is working to build partnerships with community members and key stakeholders throughout the Kisumu municipality in Kenya.  With support from the project, grandparents in 5 of the area’s informal settlements have formed Nyanya Groups.  It is hard to think of a more tenacious advocate than a resolute Grandmother, and the groups have been effective in sensitizing families to the importance of education.  The determined grandparents meet weekly in school compounds, and are actively engaged in identifying barriers to school in their community and, where possible, resolving these issues.  The groups engage officers with the Ministry of Education, civil societies, and community leaders to drive change at the community level for sustainable development.

It is not just determined grandparents that will drive global education’s next movement forward.  The Young Changemaker’s Program uses various approaches to cultivate a new generation of leaders in young women from underprivileged backgrounds in Nairobi. The secondary school level girls are offered the opportunity to develop their life skills and become future Changemakers.  The program adopts a holistic approach to scholarly development.  The budding leaders are provided with scholarships and extensive leadership trainings that prepare them for their new roles as the vanguard for equitable education.  The program holds a Leadership Training Academy that meets three times a year, and includes both leadership and 21st century skills.   

The Prajayatna Project operates in rural areas throughout India, and is another program stressing the importance of empowered local activists.  The organization creates the structures needed for communities to engage with local education policy, and supports the structures as they develop and build capacity.  The program has already left an indelible impact, working with over 14,000 schools and centers since 2000.  The program is not yet satisfied though, and is continuing to help parents and teachers gain the knowledge necessary to plan, implement, and review innovative education policy independently across various levels of governance.

The Student Leaders Understanding My Slums Program, or S.L.U.M.S., takes a word with traditional connotations of hardship and disenfranchisement, and flips it on its head.  The project, supported by The Supply, works within informal settlements, and contributes to curriculum reforms and teacher trainings.  Especially relevant to the current Global Action Week though, the project incentivizes civic engagement and trains future leaders in political participation, political and social mobilizing, and social justice.  These students participate in direct service projects, research projects, or advocacy projects to address challenges in their communities that they themselves identify. 

The Global Campaign for Education is right to call on the education development community to focus their efforts during this crucial window.  Their Global Action Week provides a great opportunity for all of us to make our voices heard, but the advocacy cannot stop there.  Thanks to the work of programs on the ground like those profiled here, it is clear that the determined and informed efforts will continue.  Not just for this week, but for the months and years to come.

Image courtesy of The Supply

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