On July 21, 2021, the Safe to Learn Global Initiative launched two new contributions to accelerate progress to end violence in and through schools: a new investment case drafted by World Bank staff and a new Safe to Learn strategy.
“This event was not just another event,” said Chloë Fèvre, the Director of the Safe to Learn Global Initiative. “It was a turning point, and a moment when a coalition of partners stood together and ready to help.”
The launch was chaired by Joy Phumaphi, Board Co-Chair of the End Violence Partnership, who spoke with senior representatives from government, the Global Partnership for Education, the World Bank, the Education World Forum, the Coalition for Good Schools, and global education advocates, on how the global community can work together to make sure every child — including the most marginalised — is safe to learn.
“With the vision to end violence in and through schools and other learning environments, the Safe to Learn initiative unites key actors in the education, child protection, violence prevention, and health field, to unlock the multiple wins of ending violence,” said Joy Phumaphi, Board Co-Chair of the End Violence Partnership. “Today, we will hear from some of these key actors and from young people themselves on what needs to happen to end violence in and through schools, why it is the right investment to make and why the time for it is now.”
Joining Forces to End Violence in and Through Schools took place in the framework of both the Global Education Summit and the Together to #ENDviolence campaign. Ms Helen Grant MP, United Kingdom Prime Minister’s Special Envoy on Girls’ Education and co-host of the Global Education Summit, welcomed participants to this important moment. She highlighted why such critical contributions gained even more resonance a week before the Global Summit for Education, where the international community was expected to pledge US$5 billion to respond to the learning crisis and give priority to girls' education.
“Before, during and after the pandemic, violence has been a key barrier to girls attending and achieving in school,” said Ms Grant. “Violence has a significant and lasting impact on a child’s wellbeing, their ability to learn, and their future prospects.”
Ms Grant also spoke of the United Kingdom’s commitment to combatting this issue, both through their active involvement in the Safe to Learn coalition, to which the UK is a founding partner, and in co-hosting the Global Partnership for Education replenishment process. The United Kingdom has pledged £430 million – the largest pledge the country has ever made to the Global Partnership for Education.
“I call on partners and governments around the world to work together to address violence in schools,” said Ms Grant. “Our ability to make change in the world should never be underestimated if we work together.”
Watch the event in full below and scroll to the bottom of this page to access translations of the event in French and Spanish.
THE INVESTMENT CASE TO END VIOLENCE IN SCHOOLS
With support from the End Violence Partnership, World Bank staff have developed an investment case to end violence in schools. The research highlights the prevalence of violence in and around school, its potential impacts on schooling and learning, as well as health and well-being, and the costs of some of those impacts.
“The findings from the study suggest that in addition to being a moral imperative, ending violence in and around schools is also a smart economic investment,” said Quentin Wodon, the lead author of the study. “The cost of violence in and around schools in lost lifetime earnings could be of the order of US $11 trillion.”
Apart from measuring the potential impacts of violence in and around schools, the investment case outlines programmes that have been proven to reduce violence in schools, including those that focus on early childhood, socio-emotional skills, anti-bullying, and life skills development.
THE NEW SAFE TO LEARN STRATEGY
Dr Chloë Fèvre, the Director of Safe to Learn, outlined the new strategy that will guide the Safe to Learn coalition from 2021 to 2024.
“For change to happen, we need people, we need institutions, we need different partners, and we need an ecosystem behind one vision and one approach," said Dr Fèvre. "This is what the new Safe to Learn Strategy that we are launching today is about.”
Dr Fèvre emphasized the power of the Safe to Learn coalition, which includes 14 key partners, including financers of education, advisers, experts, practitioners, implementers, and advocates. Each partner brings different strengths and knowledge, but all are committed to ending violence in and through schools. The new strategy focuses on collective action at the country level and advocacy at the global level. Making schools safe is essential as learning and safety cannot be thought through separately, as no child can learn if they feel threatened or are abused.
Explore the 2021-2024 strategy. In addition, you can access annexes to the strategy, which include a technical note focused on gender and a results framework about accelerating progress for all children to be Safe to Learn.
THE PANEL DISCUSSION
The event then transitioned into a panel discussion, which focused on how the global community can join forces to end violence in and through schools. Mr Gavin Dykes, Program Director of the Education World Forum, spoke about his organisation’s commitment to building education systems to be stronger and bolder. He also highlighted the need for children to be engaged directly in these efforts, and that as a global community, we need to build platforms for children to exercise their agency and amplify their voice.
Next, Dr Jaime Saavedra, Global Director for Education for the World Bank, spoke to the findings of the investment case and the Bank’s commitment to preventing violence in and around schools. He also highlighted the commitments – and action – needed from education funders across the globe.
“For learning to happen, kids have to be safe,” said Dr Saavedra. “If not, all the other investments that we are doing in education will be rendered irrelevant. This investment case makes evident the cost of inaction.”
The desire for such action was echoed by Ms Carol Mumbi, a 21-year-old youth advocate from Kenya. After experiencing violence in school, Ms Mumbi began advocating for safer schools for herself, her siblings, her friends and her community.
“I want to see action,” said Ms Mumbi. “No more saying something will change and then nothing happens…Today, I feel a bit more hopeful. There are many great leaders here today, and sirs and madams: we want to work with you. I hope that one day soon, we can make real, concrete change.”
Ms Jo Bourne, the Chief Technical Officer of the Global Partnership for Education, amplified Ms Mumbi’s call to action by sharing her organisation’s new strategy. A few years ago, after reviewing education sector plans of 35 countries, the Global Partnership for Education found only half included a component on violence. Though there has been an increase in violence prevention, Ms Bourne said, it is still not enough.
“I am calling on everyone to bring their expertise to align behind efforts to make schools safe and free from violence,” said Ms Bourne. “It is going to take determination and alignment of all partners, across this partnership and GPE, to move the dial on this issue.”
Dr Bernadette Madrid, Co-Founder of the Coalition for Good Schools, spoke about how a coalition of practitioners in the global south stand ready to share their knowledge gained over decades of experience working with children who need it the most. She highlighted the importance of ensuring the voices – and the work – of those in the global south are heard and well represented. Dr Madrid also welcomed the new Safe to Learn strategy, and shared how the Coalition for Good Schools and Safe to Learn were in perfect alignment and indeed reinforcing each other.
The panel ended with a powerful message from Mr Chad Rattray, a 21-year-old Jamaican youth advocate and student. Mr Rattray emphasized the contrast between the beauty of his island and the richness of his culture with the devastating impact of violence that too many children and youth face when trying to get an education. He spoke about his experience being robbed on the way to school when he was younger, and his desolation when witnessing or hearing about similar experiences that too many of the Jamaican youth face – not just in school, but on the way to the classroom and, increasingly, online. At age 16, Mr Rattray committed himself to preventing this issue, and became a student leader to raise awareness of violence in schools and combat it. Today, Mr Rattray is continuing to advocate for the end of violence as a law student.
“I want to live in a country where every child, whether you’re from Trench Town, Cherry Gardens, or Mona, can go to school and learn without fear,” said Mr Rattray. “We want to see you, our leaders, take bold and decisive action to tackle this intergenerational issue that has, for far too long, affected too many Jamaicans and students worldwide.”
The event was concluded by Hon Janet Museveni, Uganda’s First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports. Hon Museveni spoke about the impact violence has on children in every country, everywhere, and the way it impedes learning, development and growth in countries rich and poor. She also spoke of her country’s commitment to the issue, and the progress it has made since endorsing the Safe to Learn Call to Action in 2019.
“Uganda is working tooth and nail against this issue in our country,” Hon Museveni said. “We know that education is key to development, but quality and inclusive education is achieved only when learners – all learners – are safe at school.”
With the new investment case and Safe to Learn strategy, the global community stands poised to take action on ending violence in schools – perhaps now more than ever before. We know that safer schools improve learning outcomes, better leverage educational investments, facilitate a shift in social norms, and have the potential to break intergenerational cycles of violence. Now, we have the evidence – and the plan – to take action.
“Let’s make today a turning point,” said Dr Howard Taylor, Executive Director of the End Violence Partnership. “Let’s take what we’ve learned and what’s inspired us and act on it, so that every child is safe to learn.”
Photo credit from top to bottom: UNICEF/UN0443402/Dejongh, UNICEF/UN0459561/Marish