Magazine article New African

WISE: Spreading the Light of Education: With Millions of School-Going Age Children Worldwide Still without Access to Education, It Is Small Wonder the Annual World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) Keeps Drawing Global Attention. Anver Versi Was at the 2012 Summit in the Qatari Capital Doha Where, Once Again, Seeking Solutions to Educational Needs Was at the Heart of the Agenda

Magazine article New African

WISE: Spreading the Light of Education: With Millions of School-Going Age Children Worldwide Still without Access to Education, It Is Small Wonder the Annual World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) Keeps Drawing Global Attention. Anver Versi Was at the 2012 Summit in the Qatari Capital Doha Where, Once Again, Seeking Solutions to Educational Needs Was at the Heart of the Agenda

Article excerpt

ALTHOUGH I HAD OF COURSE HEARD about the WISE global initiative in Doha, Qatar, and was looking forward to attending its fourth annual summit in November, I must admit I was not prepared for what was lying in wait for me when I got there.

For the three days of the summit, the vast conference venue had been converted into a universe of education crammed with educators and policy makers of every description and seemingly from every corner of the earth all bent towards one goal--how to spread the liberating light of education where there is still darkness. And darkness there is still plenty of--an estimated 670 million children of school-going age around the world see their prime learning years tick by untouched by any form of education. Millions more snatch whatever little bits and pieces of learning that come their way as they and their parents battle poverty, conflict and hostile environments.

This is despite the fact that over 8o years ago, the Human Rights Convention declared education as a basic human right. Education liberates, the lack of it enslaves the mind and crushes the human spirit. The hunger for education can be as acute and urgent as the need for food and water.

Perhaps it was this awareness and the look of deep longing in the eyes of children shut out of classrooms, that drove Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, wife of the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Than i, to set up, four years ago, WISE as part of the Qatar Foundation which she chairs. The aim was simple in principle but breathtaking in scope: bring together the world's most creative minds in the field of education and hammer out practical ideas that will begin to push back the boundaries of ignorance that still plague large parts of the world.

WISE is a year-long series of programmes culminating in the annual summits where outstanding achievements in the field of innovative education are recognised and awards presented.

This was a commitment driven by passion and the Sheikha's enormous energy. Over the years, WISE has quickly developed into a global community of like-minded people ranging from multilateral organisations such as UNESCO and the World Bank, to some of the world's greatest universities and teaching organisations, to NGOs and to some of the most extraordinary individuals who have defied every obstacle imaginable to educate children who would otherwise have been left out in the cold.

"You have heard the statistics--over 60 million children are currently deprived of access to education. The figures are hard to comprehend," said Sheikha Moza, launching her Educate a Child campaign. "But imagine this--that number is the same as the populations of Beijing, London, Paris, Cairo and Karachi combined. Behind these numbers are countless real-life stories. Stories of disadvantage, poverty, conflict, of disaster. But also stories of courage, of resilience, of determination."

She told us that she had visited the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya where hundreds of thousands of families fleeing conflicts in the Horn are being looked after. Here she met Suad Shariff Mohammed, the head teacher of the Horseed Primary School. She is responsible for the education of 1,4.00 children of different nationalities, cultures and faiths but has only 2.5 teachers. "Some are teaching classes of 168 pupils in a single crowded space, without electricity, without pencils. Even without chairs or desks," Sheikha Moza recalled. "For many of us, learning in these conditions can seem impossible. But for Suad (pictured right) and the other teachers, nothing is impossible. They use their creativity. When they lack writing materials, they teach through song or drama."

Suad herself grew up in the refugee camp and graduated from Horseed School. Despite her full-time job managing the large school, she is studying for a degree through distance learning.

Educate a Child, in partnership with UNHCR, is now supporting Suad's efforts. …

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