“Access to education in conflict and post conflict contexts: Role of digital technology and connecti
News02 October 2020
High Level Security Council Arria Formula Meeting
“Access to education in conflict and post conflict contexts: Role of digital technology and connectivity”
Statement by Ireland
2 October 2020
We thank Niger for convening this Arria Formula meeting and we welcome the adoption of the Presidential Statement on children and armed conflict in September. Ireland aligns itself with the statement delivered by the European Union. We wish to thank the briefers for their invaluable insights.
Ireland was an early partner in supporting the Generation Unlimited (GenU) initiative, and we are very pleased to see this has led to the GIGA partnership between UNICEF and the International Telecommunication Union, with the goal of connecting every school to the internet.
The use of technology has the potential to support, enhance, and enable education at a distance, including in conflict and post-conflict contexts. However, before children can benefit from such initiatives, the deep inequalities in global digital connectivity must be overcome, especially in those States affected by conflict.
Online learning cannot be a substitute for face-to-face contact with teachers or interaction with other learners. Situating digital education within schools provides the best opportunity to meld in-person and digital learning, and ensure safe and secure access to digital resources. Therefore we must continue to ensure the safety of schools and students in conflict-affected areas. This is just one of the many reasons why Ireland is proud to have endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration, and we encourage Member States who have not yet endorsed this important document to do so.
In conflict-affected areas or refugee and IDP camps, space for education and the availability of qualified teachers can be limited, thereby making a blended approach of school-based and remote instruction necessary.
In Jordan, for example, Ireland supports education for refugee children and host communities through UNICEF, who have recently introduced an Online Learning Programme to equip vulnerable youth and adolescents with 21st century skills. UNRWA has also developed a self-learning programme covering basic skills and core subject concepts for children who cannot regularly access school.
In Ethiopia and Uganda, Education Cannot Wait is partnering with the ProFuturo Foundation to integrate digital education solutions in its multi-year resilience programmes targeting refugee children, internally displaced children and their host communities
Ensuring education for adolescent girls is an issue of great importance for Ireland, and forms part of our wider Drive for Five initiative. COVID-19 has underlined and exacerbated the gender inequities in access to education and to distance learning technologies, particularly the gender digital divide. Conflict only worsens such inequities, and we must do more to ensure no one is left behind.
Given the magnitude of the digital divide, the private sector has an essential role to play, but public education cannot be dependent on digital platforms provided by private companies, and the digital transition must be shaped by teachers, students, governments, civil society representatives and privacy advocates as well as the private sector.
Ireland remains deeply committed to the promotion of the rights of the child, in particular the right to education, both in times of stability and in times of conflict. The international community must act to protect our children and their right to access education, in the classroom or online.