By Elaine Whitehouse
CTAUN, which is the acronym for Committee on Teaching about the United Nations, promotes global awareness and inspires educators to teach students about the United Nations and its global challenges. This year 388 people attended the conference, including individuals from Quebec, Ontario and Benin as well as 48 Fulbright Fellows from 33 countries.
Throughout the day individuals and panels engaged in dialogues to describe how education for all is a global challenge. The first speaker was Deputy Secretary General Asha-Rose Migiro who welcomed everyone and voiced Secretary General Ban Ky Moon’s message that education is integral to spreading peace and democracy. “Education has always been essential to human development.” she said. “After the earthquake in Haiti in 2010 what the people wanted most was education. Education supplies were included with disaster relief to give a sense of normalcy, hope, and a way to make productive use of time in the face of chaos.”
Panel moderator Barbara Reynolds said that right now 68 million children are not in school. She added that once we get the children into school we need to make education relevant to their lives. For example, she said that many developing schools teach students to learn facts by rote. What they really need to learn is to create, solve problems and collaborate.
Dr. A.K. Abdul Momen, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN, explained why children in his country, mostly girls, often drop out of school or have poor attendance. Circumstances such as continuous monsoons and flooding, the need of children to work to help support their families, not enough schools or teachers, early marriage, child bearing and hunger are some of the reasons why the goal of universal education is not achieved. Yet his country has managed to improve school attendance. The government pays $1.20 a month if a girl goes to school and maintains 75% attendance and 75% average grades and does not marry.
Carol Bellamy, former Director of the Peace Corps and Executive Director of UNICEF, now Chair of Global Partnership for Education, discussed the UN’s millennium goal of getting all children into primary school. Countries in conflict, and those with gender issues and poverty have yet to achieve this goal. Funding is always a problem. But through the Secretary General, the United Nations and CTAUN are raising the issue of education to a higher political dialogue.
As A.K. Abdul Momen said, “If you teach a man, you teach an individual. If you teach a woman, you teach a family.” Put another way – educate the girl, change the world.
Elaine Whitehouse teaches at the United Nations International School and is the Editor of Fire Island Tide Newspaper. Elaine is also Treasurer of WNBA-NYC.