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Source: Save The Children

Adults and institutions are not listening to children. We have witnessed how the voices of children (under 18s) have been largely absent so far in the Transforming Education Summit discussions, decision-making and at the Pre-Summit in Paris in June. We will only be successful in transforming education if the process is an inclusive one, which includes children. They know how valuable a quality, safe and inclusive education is to their futures. As leaders decide which actions must be prioritised, it’s more important than ever to put children’s perspectives and demands at the heart of those decisions by ensuring they are part of robust and meaningful national and global conversations on education. 

What is children’s participation and why is it important? 

Generally, children are rarely consulted about their feelings, fears, expectations, and proposals, which is an indicator of how much progress remains to be done. Forums and formats, usually developed by adult perspectives, must be re-thought so that under 18s (including young children) can be active protagonists of our societies. Language that is adapted to their age and level of development and child-friendly formats are central for them to be able to get involved in processes and events such as the forthcoming Summit. 

Governments have a duty to ensure child participation under Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) – the child’s right to be heard – which is the fundamental tenet for children’s participation. 

Save the Children believes children’s participation is not solely an activity or an event, but rather a core principle that informs our organisational behaviour. We know we don’t always get this right and are constantly learning. It is a set of civil rights to be fulfilled, a principle to be applied and a means to fulfil other rights. 

Youth and children’s perspectives are not the same  

We welcome efforts to include youth’s perspectives in the Summit process to date, including through the pre-summit Youth Forum, youth surveys and the development of a Youth Declaration. 

However, youth are typically aged 18-25 (and sometimes up to 35). Their experiences and perspectives of education will be very different from children who are currently in education systems that have been affected by the pandemic and other crises and challenges. Children will also have different thoughts and needs in terms of engaging meaningfully in the Summit.    

Children with less resources have found it very difficult to access education”, Paula from Colombia

Much of the themes and commitments we hope to see made at the Summit itself by Member States and others, will be in response to the learning and wellbeing needs of under 18s – so we must hear directly from them! 

What do children demand?

Last year we heard from 42 children across 11 countries about how the pandemic had affected their learning and their demands for better education. We have also surveyed 8,000 children affected by crisis with a majority telling us that education was their top priority over other basic needs, such as food, healthcare, water and shelter – this is likely a result of a lack of good learning opportunities in emergencies. We are working to ensure children’s voices and opinions are heard in the lead up to and at the Summitt. 

In the lead up to and at the Summit itself, we call upon the UN Deputy Secretary General, UNESCO, Member States, and all stakeholders involved to:   

  • Enable the full, equal, and meaningful participation of all children and youth in national consultations, Action Track dialogues, and other preparatory processes. This includes ensuring equal access to child-friendly information.  

  • Listen fully to the views and perspectives of children and youth and commit to reflecting their priorities and proposals into commitments that will be made at the Summit in September.  

  • Ensure children and youth from diverse backgrounds, particularly the children most impacted by inequality and poverty have equal opportunity to participate.  

  • Consult with children and revise the Youth Declaration so that it is a Child and Youth Declaration representative of the perspectives of both children and youth.  

  • Include child and youth delegates as part of official delegations to the Summit, ensuring their full and equal participation and voice and enabling them to engage meaningfully in decision making processes.