By Pi James
NEW YORK, USA, 2 December 2009 – On his impending departure from UNICEF, Global Chief of Education, Dr. Cream Wright spoke with moderator Amy Costello about the empowering force of education and the importance of a child’s right to choose.
According to Dr. Wright, since joining UNICEF in 2002, he has witnessed the development of a more general acceptance of education as a human right, and a growing awareness of the role education can play in tackling global issues.
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“Increasingly, people are seeing the value of education not just on its own, for itself – but as contributing to solving some of the challenges of our time,” Dr. Wright said.
“Education is not just a right in itself, it’s a right that facilitates other rights so it’s really the most empowering of the rights in many ways.”
Building back better
Further, Dr. Wright stresses that in times of conflict and disaster, it is important not only to provide relief, but also to use opportunities to build back better.
“Very often we bring relief in a way that ends the suffering but does not restore normal life. So we talk not only about bringing relief in the field of education for instance, not just restoring learning, but also rebuilding an education system.”
“Even beyond that, ironically when a system is under threat or when it has literally been destroyed, to some extent that is the time to change an education system… So a system that used to discriminate against certain populations can become a system that’s totally inclusive.”
Child Friendly Schooling
One of the ways UNICEF and other organizations are building back better is through the development of Child Friendly Schools.
“In short really a Child Friendly School is a learning community that embodies what it means to facilitate the rights of children,” Dr. Wright said.
“It’s a place that takes into account the conditions under which children learn and the personalities of children themselves as individuals… and is also the place where children learn a lot in terms of fairness, tolerance and grow in terms of realizing their own potential.”
The importance of choice
When asked what one thing he would give to every child around the world, Dr. Wright said: “It’s one word: it’s choice. But more specifically it’s choice about what happens after a basic education.”
“In far too many countries, young people do not have a choice… and it’s no use having good quality basic education for everyone if what follows is chaos.”
“If education is to truly fulfill the potential that it has to transform societies,” Dr. Wright said, “we need to plan in a more structured way how to provide choice for young people in determining their future.”