Moushira Khattab is human rights activist advocating children rights - courtesy of Khattab's official website
CAIRO- 14 April: Egypt’s Former Minister of Family and Population Moushira Khattab gave Thursday a speech on education quality at the Moscow International Education Fair 2017.
A candidate for the post of UNESCO Director General, Khattab was invited to the venue by the Russian government; her speech titled “Education Quality and Fighting Terrorism.”
Held from April 12-15, the event is organized by the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation. It is considered one of the leading venues for the presentation of the best practices in education, according to its official website.
Here is her speech:
I would like to begin by thanking the Russian government for inviting me to participate and speak at this event and for their keenness on education. Education is an inalienable human right, an enabler for achieving other rights and key to achieving sustainable development.
It has long been a priority for developing as well as developed societies. We have seen it touted as a core tenet of reform programs in Africa in the past and as a contentious topic of national debate in the UK and Europe today with discussions almost always centering on quality as well as access. I have long fought to make equal access to quality education our priority not only to build better, stronger minds for the leaders of tomorrow but to empower global citizens in the fight against extremist ideology.
The frequency and ferocity of terrorist incidents necessitates prevention of extremism. Recent events in Paris, Brussels, Nice, Berlin, London, Stockholm, and in my own country Egypt underscore the reality that the global community can no longer afford to focus on curing extremism. This will resonate with Russians having recently suffered the horrors of terrorism first hand with the heinous attack on the St Petersburg metro, as much as it will resonate with Egyptians whose Churches were attacked a few days ago.. the French.. the Germans.. the global community at large.
This problem is not unique to a specific culture, religion, or country. Extremism is a plague that must be eradicated on a global scale- a scale that only an organization like UNESCO can attain through focusing on quality inclusive education and lifelong learning. Our educational systems must instill a deep sense of tolerance and understanding for different cultures and traditions. Our strength lays in our diversity and we must look beyond the cliché to make this a fundamental belief.
There is a multitude of ways in which we can enhance our educational systems to provide the kind of quality education that is needed to truly build peace in the minds of men and women as the UNESCO charter so poignantly states. UNESCO has developed a series of educational platforms which hold great promise if implemented properly and this must be done with community involvement. This Fair is a fantastic initiative which brings together different stakeholders with the aim of enhancing the educational system and this model can go a long way towards achieving greater cooperation within the community. One of the things that caught my attention the most when I received the invitation to come to Moscow for this fair , was the concept of educational ecosystems- a priority area that features high in my vision for leading UNESCO.
My vision stresses on the importance of engaging different stakeholders such as the business community to give the education sector the financial push it desperately needs to reach the level where it can play a constructive role in building better, stronger minds. Corporate partners should be encouraged to channel more of their Corporate Social Responsibility funds towards strengthening the educational system- a target that can only be realistic under government supervision, and in coordination with organisations like UNESCO.
UNESCO’s mandate spans over multiple interdependent and equally critical domains. UNESCO is a key agency that should lead the global efforts on the SDGs with a rights’ based approach. We must enhance measures to combat extremism and radicalization, and the ease with which they are infiltrating societies, posing the most dangerous threat to mankind with loss of life, cultural erosion, and destruction of irreplaceable heritage. An epic challenge, yet a call of duty for UNESCO to step up and reassert its leadership as the organization that can build sustainable peace and development.
Education is the core mandate that hallows its benefits on all priorities.
I am proud to have successfully initiated and coordinated a Girls Education initiative in Egypt that established 2200 girl-friendly schools and was hailed by UNICEF as a flagship model. This milestone created a paradigm shift in education, culture and legal reform, which today continues to work.
Ladies and gentlemen:
Quality Education, means that educational curricula should be reformed to root out biased material.. to focus on highlighting the many commonalities, and to explain and embrace the differences. It is only through learning about other cultures and traditions that the youth of tomorrow will learn to appreciate and respect them.
When tourists travel halfway across the world to visit Red Square in Moscow or the Pyramids in Giza they do so to learn more about the history, traditions and culture of a great people and they do so out of a deep sense of yearning. We must teach future generations to have the same sense of curiosity which will drive them to learn more about people who are different and to appreciate them for these differences. Education has a key role to play in bridging the cultural divide that is behind many of the problems our world faces today and it is our duty to connect the dots for a better tomorrow.
ICT is a great tool to provide quality education with much ease than before. New e-learning platforms can further the cause of UNESCO Learning Cities by expanding their footprint to cover wider areas previously unreachable due to distance and cost.
Furthermore, modern day technologies like real-time audio translation, on demand streaming content and interactivity set the foundations for an unprecedented level of immersive, captivating learning. Technology also makes learning fun and is perhaps one of the best ways to emphasize the difference between education, which could easily become a monologue of memorized content, and learning which allows participants to really understand through an interactive hands-on experience. Russia is a member of the UIL network with the learning city of Ufa and that in itself provides a good foundation for the way forward.
An open, transparent and efficient UNESCO is pivotal to the success of these initiatives and it is one that will be embraced by member states and people at large through their empowered National Commissions.
In closing let me reiterate that Quality Education is the leading path to a culture of peace, human dignity and sustainable development, and while it takes time to reap fruits, this should not weaken our resolve on investing in education as a strategic priority. There is a great deal of potential and together we can unlock it for the benefit of humanity.