The International Youth Day celebrations kick-started online on Thursday, 8 August 2019 on the theme of “Transforming Education”. Organized jointly by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and UNESCO, the event heard from a fresh list of youth speakers from all corners of the world thanks to its online format and was moderated by Victoria Ibiwoye, Youth representative of the SDG-Education 2030 Steering Committee.
2019 is the year for galvanized action around the education sustainable development goals, from the first commemoration of an International Education Day on 24 January, to the focus on SDG4 at the High-Level Political Forum in July. This year also marks the 20th anniversary of International Youth Day, a powerful moment to hear youth voices highlighting the importance of ensuring quality education that is inclusive and equitable, which prepares young people to be active, engaged citizens and learners throughout their lives.
Justine Sass, Chief of Education for Inclusion and Gender Equality at UNESCO set the stage by introducing UNESCO’s work on inclusive education as a process beyond the physical delivery of education. Inclusion also relates to education’s impact on other development outcomes as well as the recognition of the diversity of all learners.
Youth speakers championing inclusive quality education called for all learning differences to be welcomed, with special mention of learners with disabilities, and indigenous, migrant and refugee youth. In particular, the need for mental health support for marginalized groups was highlighted throughout the interventions, bringing attention to the importance of psychosocial support in achieving the education goals.
Seqininnguaq Poulsen, the Arctic youth focal point from Greenland spoke about how little mental support is given to indigenous youth, leading to high school dropout rates. Likewise, DoBrain founder, Yejin Choi, talked about the need for greater and more equitable access to cognitive development assessment and tools in early childhood education, which is currently only accessible to higher income families.
Daniela Bas, Director of Division for Inclusive Social Development (DISD) at DESA, closed the event with a passionate call for education systems that continue to provide upward social mobility, form global citizens, and help youth learners adapt to technological change to find decent jobs.
The UN International Youth Day is celebrated every year on 12 August.