NEW YORK, Jul 20 (IPS) – “We may all come on different ships, but we are in the same boat now,” Martin Luther King Jr once said. His timeless wisdom rings truer than ever today for the many challenges the world is facing. COVID-19, continued armed conflicts and forced displacement, climate-change induced disasters, deep divides and widespread discrimination mark the human family in the 21st century.
While COVID-19 is indeed a health crisis, the state of the world is in a bigger, multi-dimensional crisis. The one safe solution is education. Not just any education, but a quality education. One that is holistic and empowers the young generation, especially girls, to realize their potential, be productive and bring lasting peace to their communities and the world. Without a quality education, we will succumb to a spiral of crisis, as a human family.
Indeed, we are all in the same boat. However, those left furthest behind in conflicts and forced displacement may never have the chance to recover and bounce back. COVID-19 risks plunging them further into the abyss of disempowerment and hopelessness. Without education, there is no hope for them. Tragically, COVID-19 is but one crisis in their abnormal world of widespread violence and systematic violations, dispossession and extreme poverty. All impacting them at the same time.
To tell them that the world is in a health-crisis, but not in an education crisis, implies a failure to recognize their world and their suffering. They amount to 75 million today, of whom 39 million are girls, though the numbers are predicted to rise due to COVID-19. Absence from school or structured remote learning will culminate in millions never returning to school. As many recent reports show (Save the Children, UN Women, to mention a few), they risk being forced into child marriage, early pregnancy and child labor, or being recruited into violent forces and terror groups. These very real protection threats are now escalating and making their way into the daily life of millions of vulnerable children and youth in countries already affected by emergencies and protracted crisis.
Their education cannot wait until COVID-19 has passed, until peace has arrived or until the financial recession is over. On the contrary, as Canada’s Minister of International Development Karina Gould says in her interview in this month’s ECW Newsletter: “The world needs you to keep studying, to keep dreaming, to keep pushing for what you want to see in the world.”
It is now incumbent on the rest of us to move. We must sprint with speed, and we must do it together.