As Schools Work to Re-Open Safely, New Tools Can Narrow Digital Inequalities, Transform Education, Deputy Secretary-General Says
Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s opening remarks at the consultation of Ministers of Education on the E9 Digital Learning Initiative on the theme “Scaling Up Digital Learning to Accelerate Progress towards SDG 4”, :
It is my pleasure to join you for this consultation meeting of Ministers of Education from the E9 [countries]. Allow me to begin by thanking Your Excellency, Minister Dipu Moni [Minister for Education of Bangladesh], for your leadership and for bringing us together with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and our colleagues at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Generation Unlimited.
We come together at a difficult moment, driven by a sense of urgency, necessity and opportunity. As Government Ministers and leading education partners, you know better than anyone how difficult this last year has been for learners, teachers and parents. During the COVID-19 crisis, many of you have deployed tremendous efforts to ensure the continuity of learning. And today, you are juggling the challenge of reopening schools safely, addressing learning losses, supporting teachers and managing hybrid systems.
At the same time, as we look to the future, it is clear that there is no going back to the education we had before the emergency. Before COVID-19, access to quality education was already profoundly unequal. Financing gaps were immense. And learning was not equipping young people with the skills needed to excel in today’s world.
We are joined today by the Malala Fund because no one symbolizes better the expectations of young people on education — and the obstacles they may face — than Malala Yousafzai, an inspiration for all of us. If we are to realize the ambition of Sustainable Development Goal 4 [on ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education], then we need to pursue pandemic recovery efforts that transform education.
Today’s discussion kick-starts a process of co-creating an exciting initiative that is key to doing just that, by scaling up digital learning and skills for children and youth. We see this as an opportunity to narrow digital inequalities, reach the most marginalized, empower girls and young women and prepare workforces for the future.
For this, we need Government leadership. We need the engagement of young people. We need to leverage innovation, wider models of cooperation and private sector capacities. And we need to ensure that resources coming downstream to drive the recovery have a strong focus on education and connectivity.
We are seeking to launch this initiative with the E9 countries because of your history of cooperation through the E9 partnership and because your national education systems are among the largest in the world. I am convinced that your collective leadership and expertise offer a blueprint for scaling up progress in many countries across the world and getting Sustainable Development Goal 4 back on track.
With our resident coordinators, country teams and global networks, the United Nations stands ready to support you to the fullest. Today, with our key partners, we wish to hear your feedback on what you see as the challenges, needs and opportunities for expanding digital learning and skills. We would also like to discuss the preparations needed to be in a position to launch this initiative in July with the Secretary-General and your Heads of State and Government.