THE education of over 11 million young girls hang in the balance as they are likely to remain home during the 2021 academic year as a result of the covid-19 pandemic.
To this end, the General Secretary of All-Africa Students Union (AASU), Mr. Peter Kwasi Kodjie is urging governments across the continent to take drastic measures to ensure the education of these vulnerable girls is not truncated.
In his solidarity message for 2021 to African governments and students on the continent, the Secretary-General of the largest student organization in Africa outlined several challenges impeding education in Africa, prominent amongst them being child labour.
Calling on governments to deal with the canker which is on the increase because of the pandemic, he said; “We also know that a lot of children are being forced into child labour due to pressures on their families to survive on account of the hardships inflicted by this pandemic. At this rate, all the gains we have made in the fights against child labour will be rolled back”.
After commending the United Nations General Assembly for adopting of 2021 as the international year for the Elimination of Child Labour, H. E. Peter Kodjie also called on all stakeholders to solidly stand together in 2021 to demand accountability from their respective governments and to ensure that they prioritize education and its related matters in Africa.
Mr. Kodjie further added that, AASU will commit to seven main objectives for the year, aimed at improving the educational sector in Africa.
Below is the full statement
2021 MESSAGE FROM THE AASU SECRETARY GENERAL
LET US JOIN HANDS TO BUILD BACK BETTER AND EQUAL
On the back of what has been a difficult year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 witnessed global school closures for the most part, with an estimated 1.3 billion learners compelled to study at home where possible.
We look ahead to 2021 with concern, knowing that around 11 Million young girls will potentially not return to the classroom as schools prepare to reopen, unless drastic measures are taken to ensure their education is not cut short.
We also know that a lot of children are being forced into child labour due to pressures on their families to survive on account of the hardships inflicted by this pandemic. At this rate, all the gains we have made in the fights against child labour will be rolled back.
The combined impact of COVID-19 on the education of girls and marginalized children pushes the world to the brink of losing an entire generation.
It is commendable that the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has unanimously adopted a resolution declaring 2021 as the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour. We will be joining hands with the 100 Million Campaign and Children’s Rights Champion, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Kailash Satyarthi to fulfill the mission of ensuring all children are FREE, SAFE and EDUCATED.
In a sense, I believe we will look back one day and be grateful that the stark vulnerabilities and inequities in our education and social systems have been brutally exposed by the constraints imposed by COVID-19.
But it did not have to take the COVID-19 to bring world leaders to see this obvious truth.
Last year, through the power of solidarity, we worked together with our colleagues from other Continents under the coordination of the 100 Million Campaign to demand that a fair share of the COVID-19 recovery funds be allocated to those left furthest behind, and those truly in need of the funds.
In 2021, under the auspices of the Global Student Forum (GSF), we will stand together with our compatriots from all over the world to demand accountability from our governments on various issues. We have come to realize the issues that confront us are common, regardless of our geographical differences.
I want to use this opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude to all our national student unions for the direct interventions they have contributed to their governments’ efforts to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, we will continue to stand with you in solidarity.
It is equally important to acknowledge that some African Governments took extra-ordinary measures to alleviate the impact of the pandemic on the poor and the marginalized. We remember fondly the decision of His Majesty Mohammed VI, King of the Kingdom of Morocco, to give active and essential COVID-related health assistance to other African countries to aid the Continental efforts to address the pandemic. We commend these efforts and ask others to follow this example.
Last year, we stood against dictatorial and authoritarian tendencies in Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, China, amongst others, and we demanded the release of our colleague, Patrick Zaki, who is still being unlawfully detained by the Government of Egypt for his Human Rights activities.
Our history as the All-Africa Students Union is rich with several instances where we have stood united to oppose authoritarian regimes.
We fiercely fought the apartheid regime together with our colleagues in South Africa,
We stood with our colleagues in the Soweto Uprising and consequently named June 16 as African Student’s Day.
In 2021, as far as students’ rights and human rights in general are concerned, we will continue to relentlessly defend those rights at all times.
I am happy to announce the decision of the Government of Cape Verde to reduce tuition fees by 50% for the 2021 academic year following demands by our fellow students in Cape Verde with our support. We will be keen to see other African Governments follow this example.
We commit to do the following in 2021;
- Engage productively with governments to increase spending on education to ensure that no group is disproportionately affected by the impacts of the pandemic;
- Continue to work with UNESCO and other global partners through the Global Education Coalition launched by UNESCO to ensure learning never stops;
- Continue to work with the 100 Million Campaign and other partners to ensure that marginalized children get their fair share of the COVID-19 recovery funds;
- Continue to work to ensure that governments, key institutions, and key actors become more responsive and conscious of the needs of students, young people, and marginalized groups amid the pandemic;
- Continue to forge stronger partnerships and solidarity among young people to build broad coalitions to demand a robust COVID-19 recovery strategy that leaves no one behind;
- Continue to promote a sense of urgency in our constituents to act to hold their governments accountable to save the loss of a generation;
- Continue with the campaign for girls to return to school through UNESCO’s Gender Flagship Programme.
Last year, we challenged our leaders on several forums and at every opportunity, and we did so together! We did so on the sidelines of the G20 Summit, the 2020 UNGA and other key events.
Together, we achieved much more than going at it alone. As we plan to build back better, we must do so together in solidarity. If anything, we have seen that our problems are common, and they befit a common response.
As we start this year (2021), the All-Africa Students Union wishes all students of the African Continent nothing short of happiness and peace, in what we expect to be an impact-filled year.
Happy New Year!
Peter Kwasi KODJIE