05-03-2015, GCE | The Global Campaign for Education’s Fifth World Assembly, held in Johannesburg, South Africa 23-26 February 2015, brought together 190 delegates representing civil society campaigns fighting for the right to education across 91 countries. GCE represents the world’s biggest organised social movement and the World Assembly is the movement’s greatest opportunity to share knowledge and experiences, to debate and agree civil society positions on education advocacy, and to foster relationships between countries and regions to strengthen its combined efforts to realise education for all.

Inequity and the commercialisation of education

During the four days, the movement welcomed addresses from the UN Special Rapporteur for the Right to Education, Dr. Kishore Singh;  Professor Hubert Gijzen, UNESCO Regional Director for Southern Africa; Professor Mary Metcalfe of the University of Witwatersrand; Dr. Aaron Benavot, Director of the EFA Global Monitoring Report; and GCE co-founder and former president, Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi.

Speakers during the event, including both Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, Dr. Kishore Singh, slammed the growing commercialisation of education, compromising equity and denying children and adults their right to education. Kailash Satyarthi stated, “Education has become a commodity. Those who can afford to buy it, buy it, and those who can sell it make money out of it.”

Continued inequity, particularly for women and girls, was a theme further expounded by Dr. Aaron Benavot, Director of the Education For All Global Monitoring Report. While Dr. Benavot stated that the Education For All goals agreed in Dakar in 2000 are the reason 30 million children are in school today, stalled progress in recent years has led to many countries falling incredibly short of both the EFA goals and the Millennium Development Goals. For example, in Africa, 45% of women are still denied their right to literacy, and only 56% of children who begin grade 1 finish primary school.

Priorities for the education movement

Delegates spent much of the four days in discussion and debate regarding the campaign priorities for the education movement, both in the immediate build-up to the World Education Forum in Korea and the UN General Assembly in New York this year, and in the coming four years of the GCE collective strategic plan. The core strategic focuses for the movement between 2015 and 2019 will be quality, equity, financing, public systems and the role of the State, transparency and citizen participation, and education in conflicts and disasters.

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