Co-organized by APCEIU and the UNESCO Regional Office for Southern Africa (ROSA), the 2017 Sub-Saharan Africa Regional Global Citizenship Education (GCED) Network Meeting was held on 6-7 April 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa. The meeting brought about 50 representatives from Sub-Saharan Africa education-related ministries, civil society organizations, universities and research institutions and UNESCO entities to develop strategies and solidify regional action for GCED, in light of its realization as an integral part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The meeting held discussions and group work that identified existing action of different stakeholder groups on GCED, challenges, and ways forward. In particular, the meeting shone light on the importance of GCED in promoting transformative education and developing solutions with the region’s pressing challenges. The meeting also identified ways on how to implement SDG Target 4.7, to ensure that learners in the region are provided with knowledge and skills that promote sustainable development and global citizenship.
Representing the host country, Ms Lefika Chetty, Deputy Secretary-General of the South African National Commission for UNESCO, at the opening of the meeting highlighted the urgency of GCED to leave no one behind in her congratulatory remarks, saying that, “It is obvious, especially within the overall context of accelerating global peace, that individuals and communities without a satisfactory level of basic education risk becoming marginalized not only within their own society but from the global society too.”
Initiating the opening remarks from the organizing institutions, Mr Hubert Gijzen, Director of the UNESCO Regional Office for Southern Africa, explained that GCED, while relatively new to Africa, has existed in the region, and is an opportunity to rethink about the role of education, and a way to integrate all the dimension of sustainable development. In his words, he mentioned that “Global Citizenship may be a relatively new term in African countries. However, components of GCED such as human rights, citizenship, international relations, peace, conflicts resolution, democracy, and environmental education are not new in the lexicon of Africa.” Mr Utak Chung, Director of APCEIU, urged participants towards collaboration towards GCED, as it is everyone’s agenda. “Fostering global citizenship is not just one of the UN or UNESCO’s agenda. It is every educator’s agenda, every teacher’s agenda. It is everyone’s agenda,” he said.
The meeting showcased the diverse efforts of institutions in the various sub-regions of Sub-Saharan Africa towards the promotion of GCED. It highlighted the different perspectives of stakeholder groups, ranging from governments, civil society organizations including the youth, research groups, higher education institutions, and international organizations including UNESCO and its related entities. At the same time, the meeting showed the diverse concepts embedded in GCED, including human rights, peace, and gender equality, among others, which has been implemented in the region for a long time. Participants voiced the importance of GCED in reinforcing the role of education in addressing current challenges of the region, including resolving conflict and the prevention of radicalization amongst the youth. They also discussed on strategies at the organizational, thematic and regional levels, identified priorities, and developed strategies to strengthen promotion of GCED.
With the development of the strategies, follow-up plans were drawn where the key message is coordination and communication. Ms Ann Therese Ndong-Jatta, Director of the UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa, congratulated the participants for their seriousness and commitment for GCED. She urged that participants to utilize the network formed in this meeting as a stepping stone towards building peace through education for Africa building on existing work, and to promote inclusiveness. The meeting jumpstarted the formation of the Africa Regional GCED Network, which is expected to map different GCED programmes and explore possible collaboration in light of solidifying regional action for GCED in Africa.