As violent conflict in the Middle East drives scores of children from school, teacher unions from across the region came together to address the regions' educational challenges, including the delivery of quality education to refugees.
In large parts of Syria and Yemen schools are closed and teachers have become beggars in the street. Lebanon and Jordan are struggling to give shelter to hundreds of thousands of refugees. These and other challenges facing their countries were discussed by Education International (EI) affiliates from the Arab region, which met in Beirut on 26-27 May.
Professor Muhammad Faour of the Phoenicia University in Lebanon and a UNESCO consultant on global citizenship education led a discussion on "the responsibility of education unions in a changing Arab world". The unions shared the view that teachers and their organisations have a crucial role to play in securing refugees children's right to education. They also discussed the role of teachers and their organisations in countering the spread of extremism, which, in their view, is fed by inequality and exclusion.
Participants agreed that public education systems in the region are to be strengthened to give all young people in the Arab countries an equal start in life. They emphasised the importance of education unions becoming more actively engaged in re-examining public school systems, curricula and professional standards. It was felt that teachers training and professional development programmes would also need to address the teaching of democratic values.
The meeting brought together representatives of 23 affiliates from 10 countries. One of the objectives was to discuss strategies to have governments of Arab countries develop action plans for the implementation of UN Sustainable Development Goal 4: Inclusive and Equitable Quality Education.
The seminar followed a two-day meeting of EI's standing committee for the Arab countries, chaired by Mohamed Tahar Dhaker. The committee discussed plans to adjust the cross-region's bylaws to be presented to a cross-regional conference in December 2016.
The EI meetings in Beirut were also attended by EI Vice President Mugwena Maluleke, General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen, Deputy General Secretary Haldis Holst and Regional Coordinator Huda Khoury.