WORLD EDUCATION REPORT 2023

At Broken Chalk, we believe that education is not just a privilege, but a fundamental right for every person on this planet. That is why our team of dedicated individuals has poured their hearts and souls into creating the World Education Report 2023.


Each team member contributed with several reports. We aimed to focus on critical key topics concerning education, such as access to quality education; school infrastructure; discrimination in the educational system; teachers’ working conditions, and education in conflict settings. Each team member brought their own unique expertise and perspective, ensuring a well-rounded and comprehensive examination of the state of education worldwide.


We drew on a vast variety of sources concerning education in different countries to realize this report and ensure a comprehensive overview of the state of education in
2023, worldwide. This report, therefore, provides an important basis to ensure further developments within countries’ educational systems.


We did this report to further promote the goals of Broken Chalk. Broken Chalk is a non-profit organization devoted to addressing human rights violations in the educational sector. Broken Chalk advocates on behalf of educational victims. The interns working for Broken Chalk prepare comprehensive reports for international organizations, stakeholders, and governments to highlight human rights violations in education.


As you dive into the World Education Report 2023, we invite you to join us on this journey. Together, let’s rewrite the narrative of education—empowering individuals, eradicating inequality, and creating a brighter, more equitable future for all.

Download the full report!

Broken Chalk calls for recognition of the importance of access to education in the mother language

Written by Luzi Maj Leonhardt, Dooyum Stephanie Tseke, Sara Rossomonte

Today, on the International Day of the Mother Language, the acknowledgement and advancement of the mother language in education, and social and cultural development are inevitable.  

International Mother Language Day was first introduced by the UNESCO initiative of Bangladesh, at the 1999 General Conference. Since then, it was established by the UN General Assembly, and its importance was formalized as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  

However, limitations in access to education in the mother language remain, as approximately 40% of the global population lacks this fundamental right. In some regions, these numbers even go up to 90% of the population, according to the UN.  Access to education in the student’s mother language fosters an inclusive learning environment, which welcomes indigenous and minority groups and leads to better learning outcomes, especially in the early stages of education.  Broken Chalk recognises the need to address the issue of a lack of native language representation in education in many countries worldwide. Especially the educational sector in countries with a colonial or foreign administrative past continues to be strongly influenced by their language of instruction.  Broken Chalks strongly supports the creation of accessible and high-quality educational materials in the native languages of various countries.

The importance of mother language in education cannot be overstated. In most sub-Saharan African countries, approximately 85% of students receive instruction in a language other than their native tongue (UNESCO, 2017). Nigeria, a nation with over 600 different languages, solely employs English as the language of instruction in primary schools, prohibiting the use of local languages that are deemed informal.

Similarly, many Asian societies, formerly under colonial rule, such as the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia, and Indonesia, only began actively promoting their national languages after World War II. In Sri Lanka, Tamil was officially recognised as an official language in 1978, yet English has become the predominant language in recent years.

The absence of mother tongue instruction in education leads to knowledge gaps, particularly at the primary and secondary levels, hindering effective learning and exacerbating inequality and discrimination against diverse cultures, resulting in low student enrolment rates. Broken Chalk calls for urgent investments to lower the educational gaps of children with speak in their mother language.

Ethiopian schools have introduced instruction in students’ native tongues, resulting in significant improvements, including a half-year increase in education attainment and a 40% rise in the likelihood of students reading complete sentences (Rajesh, 2017). Similarly, the Bolivian Campaign for the Right to Education (CBDE) advocates for inclusive educational approaches, particularly for the indigenous population. Broken Chalk believes that education is crucial to working towards the elimination of discrimination against indigenous populations.

Children benefit from embracing both their own and others’ cultural identities while using the same language, as exemplified in Zimbabwe, where the government has prioritised mother tongue education. However, challenges persist globally, including inadequate funding for minority language education, lack of standardised teaching materials, and qualified teachers for indigenous languages. Colonial language policies contribute to linguistic inequality and marginalisation, necessitating governments and educational institutions to prioritise mother languages in curriculum development and teacher training programs. Funding is essential to preserve endangered languages and promote multilingualism through bilingual education initiatives. Broken Chalk calls for the allocation of more funding to promote multilingualism in education.

At Broken Chalk,celebrating World Mother Language Day reaffirms our commitment to cultural diversity and acknowledges the value and heritage of all languages. In addition to efforts being made globally, Broken Chalk will continue to publish articles in different languages to encourage and advocate for Cultural and Language Diversity.

Broken Chalk announces it to the public with due respect. 

Signed, 

Broken Chalk 

From Slums to Success: The Remarkable Story of Kianda Foundation and Its Impact on Kenya’s Most Vulnerable Communities

Written by Frida Brekk

Kianda Foundation is a non-profit organization that aims to empower underprivileged communities in Kenya through education, healthcare, and entrepreneurship. Founded in 2001 by a group of young professionals, the Kianda Foundation has since impacted thousands of Kenyans’ lives. The foundation’s focus on education is evident in its various programs aimed at providing quality education to children in low-income areas. The Early Childhood Development (ECD) program targets children between the ages of 3 and 6 years and provides them with a solid foundation in literacy, numeracy, and social skills. The primary education program focuses on providing quality education to children in grades 1 to 8, while the secondary school program provides scholarships to deserving students to enable them to complete their high school education.

Kianda Foundation’s healthcare program provides basic medical care to children in low-income areas, focusing on preventive care. The program also provides health education to children and their parents to promote healthy living practices. Additionally, the foundation runs a nutrition program that provides meals to school children, ensuring they have access to healthy and nutritious food. The Foundation’s entrepreneurship program aims to empower women and youth through skills training and access to capital. The program provides training in various skills, such as tailoring, hairdressing, and catering, among others. Participants are also provided with capital to start their businesses, enabling them to become self-sufficient and contribute to their communities’ economic development.

Photo by Kevin Menya on Unsplash

One of the notable achievements is the establishment of Kianda School, a top-tier primary school located in the affluent suburb of Muthaiga, Nairobi. The school provides a world-class education to children from diverse backgrounds, with a focus on academic excellence, character formation, and social responsibility. The school’s alumni have excelled in various fields, including medicine, law, and entrepreneurship. The Kianda Foundation founded Kianda School as a flagship school that provides a world-class education to children from diverse backgrounds. One of the school’s notable achievements is its focus on character formation, social responsibility, and academic excellence. The school’s curriculum includes classes on social justice, environmental conservation, and community service, instilling values of empathy and leadership in students. Kianda School’s alumni have excelled in various fields, including medicine, law, and entrepreneurship, and many have become leaders in their communities and beyond.

Kianda Foundation’s impact is evident in the thousands of lives it has touched over the years. Its commitment to empowering communities through education, healthcare, and entrepreneurship has made a significant difference in the lives of underprivileged Kenyans. The foundation’s programs have improved the quality of life for individuals and contributed to the development of communities and the country as a whole. Kianda Foundation is undoubtedly a testament to the power of individuals coming together to make a difference. Its commitment to empowering underprivileged communities through education, healthcare, and entrepreneurship is an inspiration to many.

Grace was a young girl living in the slums of Nairobi when she was enrolled in the Kianda Foundation’s Early Childhood Development program. Before joining the program, Grace had never held a pencil or attended school. However, Grace quickly learned how to read and write through the program’s quality education and nurturing environment. She also developed social skills and gained confidence in herself. After completing the ECD program, Grace was enrolled in Kianda Primary School, where she excelled academically. She received a scholarship from the Kianda Foundation to complete her high school education. Today, Grace is a successful businesswoman and a role model to many young girls in her community.

Mary was a single mother living in a low-income area of Nairobi. She had always dreamed of starting her own business but needed more skills and capital to do so. Through Kianda Foundation’s entrepreneurship program, Mary received training in tailoring and was provided with a microfinance loan to start her own tailoring business. With hard work and determination, Mary’s business grew, and she was able to support her family and employ other women in her community. Mary is now a successful entrepreneur and a mentor to other women in her community who aspire to start their businesses.

Another remarkable accomplishment through the Kianda Foundation is the story of Rosemary Njeri. Rosemary grew up in the slums of Nairobi and had limited access to education and economic opportunities. However, her life changed when she was enrolled in Kianda Foundation’s primary school. Rosemary excelled academically and was awarded a scholarship by the Kianda Foundation to attend a prestigious high school in Kenya. She continued to excel in her studies and was awarded a scholarship to attend the United States International University-Africa (USIU-A) in Nairobi. At USIU-A, Rosemary pursued a degree in international business administration and was actively involved in various extracurricular activities. After completing her degree, Rosemary worked for several years in the private sector in Kenya before returning to Kianda Foundation as a program officer. In this role, she oversaw the foundation’s entrepreneurship program, which provides training and microfinance loans to women and youth in low-income areas. Under Rosemary’s leadership, the entrepreneurship program expanded and reached more people in need. Many of the program’s beneficiaries went on to start successful businesses, creating jobs and contributing to their communities’ development. In recognition of her outstanding work, Rosemary was selected to participate in the prestigious Mandela Washington Fellowship, a flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) that brings together young African leaders for leadership training and networking opportunities in the United States. Today, Rosemary is a successful social entrepreneur and a role model to many young women in Kenya. She is the founder of La Fédération Des Femmes Entrepreneurs Du Cameroun, a social enterprise that empowers women entrepreneurs in Cameroon. Rosemary’s success is a testament to the transformative power of education and the impact that grassroots organizations like the Kianda Foundation can have on people’s lives.

These stories are just a few examples of the many lives impacted by the Kianda Foundation. The foundation’s commitment to sustainably empower individuals and communities through education, healthcare, and entrepreneurship has made a significant difference in the lives of underprivileged Kenyans. The foundation’s impact is a reminder that with dedication, hard work, and a sense of purpose, we can all make a difference in the world.

Kianda Foundation’s programs and impact:

  • Since its inception in 2001, the Kianda Foundation has impacted over 25,000 children and young people in Kenya.
  • The foundation’s Early Childhood Development (ECD) program has provided quality education to over 10,000 children in low-income areas.
  • The primary education program has supported over 1,500 students in their primary school education.
  • The secondary school program has awarded over 500 scholarships to deserving students, enabling them to complete their high school education.
  • The healthcare program has provided medical care to over 8,000 children in low-income areas and has reached over 20,000 children through health education programs.
  • The nutrition program has provided over 250,000 meals to children in schools.
  • The entrepreneurship program has trained over 1,000 women and youth in various skills and has provided over 500 microfinance loans to entrepreneurs.
  • Kianda School, the foundation’s flagship primary school, has over 700 students from diverse backgrounds and consistently ranks among the top schools in Kenya in national exams.
  • Kianda Foundation’s programs have received support from various donors and partners, including USAID, Rotary International, and the Kenyan government.

The foundation’s impact goes beyond just the numbers. Kianda Foundation has empowered communities through its various programs by providing access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunities. The foundation’s focus on empowering women and youth is particularly noteworthy, as it has enabled individuals who would otherwise not have had access to such opportunities to become self-sufficient and contribute to their communities development. Kianda Foundation’s impact on the lives of individuals and communities is a testament to the power of grassroots organizations to effect change and make a lasting impact.


References:

Educational Challenges in the Caribean Netherlands

Written by Sterre Krunen

Every student counts! In 2011, this slogan was the starting shot of the Caribbean and European Netherlands’ combined efforts to achieve educational equity and raise the quality of education on the islands of Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba. Although quality and equity increased, the Caribbean Netherlands still dealt with significant educational challenges in 2023. This article will explore three main challenges: the care for students with special needs, multilingualism, and the effects of poverty.

This article analyses these three challenges to understand the accessibility and quality of education in the Caribbean Netherlands. But first, we need to go into the governance structure of the islands and their relationship with the European Netherlands to fully understand the barriers to tackling the challenges and efforts to address them. Also, the policy programs addressing education and the Education Agendas will be given special attention to show continuing good practices and to explain the context in which the current challenges continue.

This map shows us the Kingdom of the Netherlands, consisting of the European Netherlands and the Caribbean Netherlands. Both thank their name to their geographical location (CC BY-SA 3.0 DEED, Wikimedia Commons: TUBS).

Context-Specific Efforts to Overcome Education Inequity

In 1948, Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba became a part of the Dutch Antilles, a separate country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. This changed in 2010: the islands became public bodies under the European Netherlands. Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba are now local governments. An executive council, an island council, and the Dutch national government govern each island. Since this change, the islands have been referred to as the Caribbean Netherlands or the BES-islands.[i]

The Dutch Ministry for Education, Culture and Science is responsible for education. The schools on the islands are part of the Dutch education system and are monitored by the Netherlands’ Inspectorate of Education.[ii] The Dutch Ministry of Education, island councils and other stakeholders cooperated over the past twelve years to develop three policy programs, the Education Agendas.

The Education Agendas address educational equity between the two parts of the Netherlands. The idea is that it should not matter whether a child grows up in the European Netherlands or the Caribbean Netherlands; educational opportunities should be the same.[iii] The agendas address the specific context of the islands, as there are apparent differences from the European Netherlands in terms of culture, history, identity, language, scale, and organization.[iv]

The first two agendas address all three islands within one agenda. During the draft of the first Education Agenda (2011-2016), the level of education of many schools on the BES islands did not fulfil European nor Caribbean Dutch standards.[v] By 2016, most schools reached basic quality standards. However, particular areas still required improvement, again addressed in the second Agenda (2017-2020). [vi] The evaluation of this Agenda in 2020 shows that the main challenges are care for students with special needs and multilingualism.[vii]

While the third Education Agenda has not yet been published, it shall address these challenges.[viii] Furthermore, this agenda will address the challenges on each island separately, showing us a further commitment to context-specific policymaking, which hopefully improves the effectiveness of the third Education Agenda.

Educational Challenge I: Care for Students with Special Needs

The first challenge to discuss is the care for students with special needs. The right to education for children with special needs is a human right. It is taken up in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. While the last Convention was ratified by the European Netherlands, it does not apply to the Caribbean Netherlands.

A statement by the Expertise Centre Education Care Saba in 2021 summarizes the importance of care for these students:  “Students have the right to feel included in a safe and reliable environment with a structured pedagogical climate that is tolerant and encouraging for the development of all”.[ix] Now, children with special needs still face situations in which education is not tailored to them, meaning they do not profit from education as their peers or eventually drop out. Some children do not have access to education at all. Children with a higher need for care face difficulties.[x]

An example of inadequate care is the case of the ten-year-old Arianny on Bonaire. In 2022, the non-speaking girl was in the news as she could not attend education on Bonaire. Arianny had no access. Members of the Dutch parliament asked the then minister of Education, Dennis Wiersma, questions about her situation and the general situation on Bonaire. The minister reacted that all children should have access to education and are required to attend school, despite specific situations. The situation of Arianny and the research in other reports show us that is not yet the reality.[xi]

Why do these problems continue even after the two Education Agendas?

Student care on the BES islands is not comparable to care in the European Netherlands. While both experience similar problems, the expert centre on Saba notes that the main difference derives from scale and school culture, for example, the lack of awareness about the differing needs of students. This also applies to the other islands: children with special needs continue to follow the same program as their peers even though they need additional care. Moreover, there are relatively more students with special needs in Saba than in the European Netherlands. Possible explanations are a lack of education planning, differentiation in the classroom and special education needs teachers.[xii] Also, non-school-related causes affect children’s learning capabilities, such as poverty and domestic violence.[xiii]

This continuing lack of care for students with special needs thus asks for extra efforts. Renewed attention to this problem and policies need to tackle the problem, ensuring (continuance of) access to education for children like Arianny. Individual needs must be considered to optimize the learning experience of already vulnerable students.

Three kids sitting in the port of Kralendijk, the capital of Bonaire (CC BY-NC 2.0 DEED, Flickr: Globewriter).

Educational Challenge II: Multilingualism

Because of the different languages being spoken on each island, the language of education has been a thorny issue. Encountered challenges have been linguistic imperialism, learning challenges, and difficulty accessing tertiary education in Dutch.

On Bonaire, most inhabitants speak Papiamento as their mother tongue. On Saba and St. Eustasius, a local variety of Caribbean English has the upper hand. Despite this, Dutch was the only officially recognized language until the beginning of the century thus, education was in Dutch.[xiv]Nowadays, Papiamento and English can both be used in education. This represents the reality of the islands and a respect for local languages, making it a laudable development and a move away from linguistic imperialism.

However, it also causes new educational challenges, especially for learning results and further education. On Saba and St. Eustatius, the instruction language is English. Dutch is being taught as a foreign language.[xv] St. Eustatius switched to English as an instruction language in secondary education in 2014. Dutch proved to negatively affect learning outcomes and attitudes towards the Dutch language.[xvi] Saba has used English as the instruction language for a more extended period. However, only teaching Dutch as a foreign language hinders access to tertiary education. A low proficiency in Dutch means that students from these islands cannot access (all) tertiary education institutions in the European Netherlands.[xvii] This is especially problematic because the Caribbean Netherlands does not have any universities or universities of applied sciences, meaning inhabitants must move to pursue tertiary education.[xviii]

On Bonaire, education starts in Papiamento  – the native language of most students  – for the first two years of primary school. After these years, the instruction language became Dutch. This causes risks, as the case of St. Eustatius before 2014 showed. Furthermore, it can hinder learning outcomes as children might struggle with Dutch.[xix]

Therefore, multilingualism leads to specific challenges for students regarding access to further education and learning outcomes. It has been difficult to find a balance between Dutch, Papiamento, and Caribbean English that will tackle these challenges. A comprehensive language policy should be developed per island, where native languages and Dutch get a well-balanced place within the education system.

Educational Challenge III: Poverty

This third educational challenge goes beyond the education agendas as it intertwines with the overall situation on the BES islands: life on the islands has become increasingly expensive, and salaries and government support are insufficient to afford this.

This is why children on the BES islands noted poverty as one of the biggest challenges in their lives in 2021. And high poverty levels have continued since then: 11,000 people live below the poverty line in 2023. This is an extremely high number, considering that the islands’ total population is 30,000.[xx] In comparison to the European Netherlands: 800,000 live in poverty on a population of almost 18 million.[xxi]

What do such numbers mean for Caribbean students?

The rapport between the Dutch Ombudsman and the Children’s Ombudsman gives us the distressing example of Shanice, an 11-year-old Bonairean girl. Her mother is a single caretaker, working multiple jobs to stay afloat. She is more often at work than at home. Shanice cares for her younger brothers and sisters, looks after the groceries, and wash dishes instead of having the opportunity to focus on her studies. She goes to school: she likes it there. However, she often feels stressed because of her many responsibilities. Then, she cannot focus or learn. At the same time, Shanice pressures herself to learn: she wants to have a different life than her mom.[xxii]

This example shows how poverty gives children many responsibilities and negatively affects their learning. This example does not comprise all adverse effects. When not having enough money, healthy food is not always a priority, just like schoolbooks or having a good place to study. Extra school costs might not be paid. Parents and kids both experience high-stress levels, which might cause parents to be (emotionally) unavailable and children to have problems focusing. All negatively affect the school outcomes of children.[xxiii]

To tackle this problem of poverty and its effects, there should be governmental support to lift children and their parents from poverty. However, government policies are one of the causes of poverty: the model of living costs for the BES island presents living costs as lower than they are. Policies are developed based on this model. Moreover, this is a recurring argument for not higher social welfare: ensuring social welfare will demotivate people, and they will not work anymore.[xxiv] Hence, policies have contributed to the problem of poverty.

In addition, inhabitants of the BES islands do not always have access to the same resources European Dutch individuals have. These resources are, however, of great importance: European Dutch depend on them, but Caribbean Dutch cannot even access them.[xxv] This is possible because of the special status of the islands. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination noted in 2021 that such differences between the European Netherlands and Caribbean Netherlands are deplorable, that discrimination should be fought, and that equality should be pursued.

The Dutch government has been taking steps. A law ensuring the equal treatment of all citizens in the Netherlands will come into effect for the Caribbean Netherlands.[xxvi] The exact date is, however, unclear. Furthermore, the model of living costs will be adjusted in July 2024. From that date onwards, inhabitants of the Caribbean Netherlands will be able to breach the gap between social security and living costs that exists now. In addition, the Dutch government does undertake other efforts to address poverty, but the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights judges them to be insufficient. [xxvii]

The Dutch government seems to increasingly take responsibility for the high poverty levels in the Caribbean Netherlands. A necessary development: despite statements such as ‘Every student counts!’, the Dutch government has discriminated against Caribbean Dutch citizens. The unfavourable treatment they experience puts them behind their fellow citizens in Europe.

Conclusion

Education quality has increased significantly on the Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba islands. Great efforts have been made to tailor policies to the local contexts of the islands, which is essential for education equity between the European and Caribbean Netherlands. This is praiseworthy and will hopefully continue with the third Education Agenda.

However, great educational challenges persist on the islands. Benefits from and access to education are under pressure.  While multilingualism affects all students, poverty and the lack of special care affect some students disproportionately. Furthermore, the problem of poverty and lack of special care show clear signs of discrimination, which should be condemned and stopped. The case of the islands of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba thus indicates the need for policies tackling discrimination and a comprehensive plan to improve education further.


References

Cover Image: A young girl in costume during a parade on Bonaire (CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED, Wikimedia Commons: Atsme).

[i] Rijksoverheid. (N.d). Caribisch deel van het Koninkrijk. Rijksoverheid. https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/onderwerpen/caribische-deel-van-het-koninkrijk/rechtspositie-politieke-ambtsdragers-bonaire-sint-eustatius-saba

[ii] Rijksoverheid. (N.d.). Caribisch deel van het Koninkrijk. Rijksoverheid.

[iii] Rijksdienst Caribisch Nederland. (N.d). Onderwijs, Cultuur en Wetenschap. Rijksdienst Caribisch Nederland. https://www.rijksdienstcn.com/onderwijs-cultuur-wetenschap

[iv] Rijksdienst Caribisch Nederland. (N.d). Onderwijsagenda voor Caribisch Nederland: samen werken aan kwaliteit. Rijksdienst Caribisch Nederland. 1. https://www.rijksdienstcn.com/binaries/rijksdienstcn-nederlands/documenten/brochures/onderwijs-cultuur/onderwijsagendas/eerste-onderwijsagenda-caribisch-nederland/index/Eerste_Onderwijsagenda_NL.pdf

[v] Rijksdienst Caribisch Nederland. (N.d). Onderwijsagenda voor Caribisch Nederland: samen werken aan kwaliteit. 1.

[vi] Inspectie van het Onderwijs. (2017). De Ontwikkeling van het Onderwijs in Caribisch Nederland 2014-2016. Onderwijsinspectie. 39-41. https://www.onderwijsinspectie.nl/documenten/rapporten/2017/03/21/rapport-onderwijsontwikkelingen-caribisch-nederland-20142016

[vii] Buys, Marga. (2021). Evaluatie Tweede Onderwijsagenda Caribisch Nederland 2017-2020. Eerste Kamer. 20. https://www.eerstekamer.nl/overig/20210708/evaluatie_tweede_onderwijsagenda/document3/f=/vlkch545eltd_opgemaakt.

[viii] Buys, Marga. (2021). Evaluatie Tweede Onderwijsagenda Caribisch Nederland 2017-2020. Eerste Kamer. 22.

[ix]. Langerak, Lisa. (2021). Inclusive Special Education on Saba. Expertise Center Education Care. 2. https://www.learningsaba.com/2021_Care_Coordinator/210614%20Project%20plan%20Inclusive%20Special%20Education%20Saba.pdf

[x] Buys, Marga. (2021). Evaluatie Tweede Onderwijsagenda Caribisch Nederland 2017-2020. Eerste Kamer. 20.

[xi] Ministerie van Onderwijs, Cultuur en Wetenschap. (2022). Antwoord op schriftelijke vragen van de leden Van den Berg en Peters (beiden CDA) over het bericht ‘Moeder vraagt om hulp: 10-jarige Arianny kan op Bonaire niet naar school. Open Overheid. 2-3. https://open.overheid.nl/documenten/ronl-b6d4ce01be3eac9fe87130ee6b9b0f08d72e664e/pdf

[xii] Langerak, Lisa. (2021). Inclusive Special Education on Saba. Expertise Center Education Care. 5.

[xiii] Kinderombudsman. (2021). Als je het ons vraagt: kinderen op de BES-eilanden. Kinderombudsman. 10-11. https://www.kinderombudsman.nl/publicaties/rapport-als-je-het-ons-vraagt-onderzoek-kinderen-op-de-bes

[xiv] Mijts, Eric, Ellen-Petra Kester and Nicholas Faraclas. (2014). Multilingualism and education in the Caribbean Netherlands. A community-based approach to a sustainable language education policy. The case study of St. Eustatius. NT2. 2. https://www.nt2.nl/documenten/meertaligheid_en_onderwijs/kambel_meertaligheid_binnenwerk_eng_h5.pdf

[xv] Rijksdienst Caribisch Nederland. (N.d). Taal in het Onderwijs. Rijksdienst Caribisch Nederland. https://www.rijksdienstcn.com/onderwijs-cultuur-wetenschap/ouders-leerlingen/taal-in-het-onderwijs

[xvi] Polak, Anneke. (2014). Engels als instructietaal ‘ingrijpend’. Caribisch Netwerk. https://caribischnetwerk.ntr.nl/2014/06/19/engels-als-instructietaal-statia-ingrijpend/

[xvii] Buys, Marga. (2021). Evaluatie Tweede Onderwijsagenda Caribisch Nederland 2017-2020. Eerste Kamer. 20.

[xviii] Rijksdienst Caribisch Nederland. (N.d). Higher Education and Science. Rijksdienst Caribisch Nederland. https://english.rijksdienstcn.com/education-culture-science/higher-education-and-science

[xix] Kloosterboer, Karin. (2013). Kind op Bonaire, St. Eustatius en Saba. UNICEF. 15. https://content.presspage.com/uploads/688/samenvattingkindopbeslowres.pdf

[xx] NOS. (2023). Derde van Caribisch Nederland onder armoedegrens, pleidooi voor hoger minimumloon. NOS

https://nos.nl/artikel/2493122-derde-van-caribisch-nederland-onder-armoedegrens-pleidooi-voor-hoger-minimumloon

[xxi] Den Hartog, Tobias and Laurens Kok. (2023). Op weg naar 1 miljoen armen: bij dit inkomen leef je volgens de overheid in armoede. Het Parool.

https://www.parool.nl/nederland/op-weg-naar-1-miljoen-armen-bij-dit-inkomen-leef-je-volgens-de-overheid-in-armoede~b9c9b7ed/

[xxii] Kinderombudsman, and Nationale Ombudsman. (2023). Caribische kinderen van de rekening. Kinderombudsman. 4. https://www.nationaleombudsman.nl/publicaties/rapporten/2022058#:~:text=Dit%20rapport%20beschrijft%20de%20knelpunten,zelf%20als%20voor%20hun%20kinderen.

[xxiii] Nederlands Jeugdinstituut. (N.d). De invloed van armoede op schoolprestaties. Nederlands Jeugdinstituut. https://www.nji.nl/armoede/invloed-op-schoolprestaties

[xxiv] Haringsma, Phaedra. (2022). Zo wordt ongelijkheid tussen Europees en Caribisch Nederland al jaren in stand gehouden. De Correspondent. https://decorrespondent.nl/13713/zo-wordt-ongelijkheid-tussen-europees-en-caribisch-nederland-al-jaren-in-stand-gehouden/2f84b44f-db88-0d7c-029d-9c1d00ae02b3

 

[xxvi] Netherlands Institute for Human Rights. (2023). Caribisch Nederland krijgt wetgeving gelijke behandeling. College voor de Rechten van de Mens. https://www.mensenrechten.nl/actueel/nieuws/2023/01/25/caribisch-nederland-krijgt-wetgeving-gelijke-behandeling#:~:text=Iedereen%20die%20zich%20in%20Nederland,2010%20bijzondere%20gemeentes%20van%20Nederland

[xxvii] Netherlands Institute for Human Rights. (2023). Report to UN Committee on economic, social and cultural human rights in the Netherlands. College voor de Rechten van de Mens. 4-6. https://publicaties.mensenrechten.nl/file/5803a853-0bbe-b495-7932-3bb751e0aed4.pdf

Interview with Mr Hakan Kaplankaya on the importance of the ECtHR judgement in YÜKSEL YALÇINKAYA v TÜRKİYE

ECHR courtroom - Copyright AP Photo Euronews.com

By Maria Popova

I had an interview with Mr Hakan Kaplankaya. Together, we discussed the ECtHR decision Yuksel Yalcinkaya vs Turkey.

Hakan Kaplankaya is a legal advisor and former Turkish diplomat. His research and consultancy services focus mainly on human rights advocacy and international commercial arbitration. During his tenure at the Ministry, he worked at the NATO Desk. He is also a board member of InstiduDE, Belgium’s research-driven NGO.

  1. Mr Kaplankaya, can you elaborate for us what the judgement is about and its importance?

The Turkish government launched a crackdown on the Gulen Movement (GM), especially after the graft probes in December 2013, which escalated to an annihilation campaign after the failed coup on July 15, 2016. GM was designated as a terrorist organisation, which paved the way to widespread criminal prosecutions for membership in a terrorist group against members, followers, and sympathisers of the movement. Within criminal proceedings, routine activities were treated as evidence of terrorist organisation membership, such as subscribing to a daily, enrolling children in GM-affiliated schools, depositing money in Bankasya, using the Bylock mobile chat application, joining GM-related associations, and participating in religious talks.

Over 600,000 people were prosecuted, with more than 300,000 detained and over 100,000 convicted on terrorism charges. The ECtHR’s judgment is a long-awaited response to this travesty of justice.

Another notable aspect of these persecutions and the judgment is that this judicial practice has risen to crimes against humanity. As fellows of the Institute for Diplomacy and Economy, we drafted a report on this issue two years ago. In various opinions, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) has concluded that the arbitrary detentions faced by numerous Turkish individuals linked to this group since the coup attempt follow a systematic and widespread pattern, possibly amounting to crimes against humanity. The international community should give due consideration and examination to this dimension.

  1. The Grand Chamber judgment in the case highlighted violations of Article 7 (no punishment without law) and Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair trial) of the ECHR. Could you explain how the Court found that the applicant’s conviction, based on the use of the ByLock application, departed from the requirements of national law and was contrary to the object and purpose of Article 7, which aims to provide safeguards against arbitrary prosecution, conviction, and punishment?

The Court observed that the applicant’s conviction for membership in a terrorist organisation was primarily based on his alleged use of the ByLock messaging application, while other evidence, such as his account at Bank Asya and his membership in a trade union and an association, served as corroborative sources. The mere use of the ByLock application, regardless of the content of the messages or the recipients’ identities, was deemed sufficient in domestic law to establish all the elements of the crime of belonging to an armed terrorist organisation.

Interview with Mr Hakan Kaplankaya on the importance of the ECtHR judgement in YÜKSEL YALÇINKAYA v TÜRKİYE App no 15669/20 (ECtHR, 26 September 2023)

The Court acknowledged that the use of the ByLock application could indicate some connection with the Gülen Group but disagreed with the domestic courts’ conclusion, which was merely downloading and using the application pointed out the complete submission to the organisation and its hierarchy. Instead, the Court found that relying on the mere use of ByLock alone to establish the elements of the offence was an unforeseeable and expansive interpretation of anti-terror legislation. This interpretation essentially created an almost automatic presumption of guilt based solely on ByLock usage, making it extremely difficult for the applicant to prove his innocence.

Without examining the presence of ‘knowledge’ and ‘intent,’ which are requirements in the legal definition of the offence under domestic law, the Court observed that objective liability was effectively attached to the use of ByLock. This interpretation by the domestic courts effectively bypassed the essential, particularly mental, element of the offence and treated it as a strict liability offence, thus deviating from the established requirements in domestic law. Consequently, the Court ruled that there had been a violation of Article 7 of the Convention.

  1. The judgment identifies procedural shortcomings in the criminal proceedings against Mr Yalçınkaya, particularly regarding his access to and ability to effectively challenge the ByLock evidence, breaching his right to a fair trial under Article 6. Can you elaborate on the specific failures in the courts’ handling of the ByLock evidence and how these shortcomings undermined the applicant’s opportunity to challenge the proof effectively, as outlined by the Court?

Regarding Article 6 § 1 of the Convention, the Court examined whether the applicant, who faced non-disclosure of crucial ByLock data, was given adequate procedural safeguards and whether the applicant was afforded a suitable opportunity to prepare his defence.

The Court criticised the silence of domestic courts concerning their rejection of the applicant’s request for Bylock raw data, as well as the applicant’s substantiated concerns about the reliability of the evidence. The refusal of the applicant’s request to independently examine the raw data to verify its content and integrity was also noted. The Court emphasized that proceedings should have allowed the applicant to fully comment on the decrypted material, ensuring a “fair balance” between the parties.

In conclusion, the Court found insufficient safeguards for the applicant to challenge the evidence effectively and on equal footing with the prosecution. The failure of domestic courts to address the applicant’s requests and objections raised doubts that they were impervious to the defence arguments. The Court ruled that the applicant was not genuinely ‘heard,’ concluding that the criminal proceedings fell short of a fair trial, breaching Article 6 § 1 of the Convention.

  1. The Court held that Türkiye must take general measures to address systemic problems, particularly concerning the Turkish judiciary’s approach to using ByLock. As a legal expert, what specific measures do you believe would be necessary to rectify the identified systemic problems and ensure that future cases involving digital evidence, like ByLock, comply with the requirements of the ECHR, particularly in safeguarding individuals against arbitrary consequences and upholding the principles of a fair trial?

The Court highlighted the systemic nature of the issue, with over 8,000 similar cases and the potential for around one hundred thousand more cases from Turkey to reach the European Court. To address this, Turkey needs to implement general measures for resolution. Although the anti-terror legislation has faced criticism for its broad interpretative potential, mainly from scholars, the Venice Commission, and some European Court judgments, I believe the core problem lies in the arbitrary interpretation by the Turkish judiciary rather than the legislation’s wording. Despite Yalçınkaya reflecting the Court’s stance on this interpretation, there is still room for legislative amendment. However, the most immediate solution would be a jurisprudential change, with the Turkish judiciary aligning itself with the Yalçınkaya judgment, refraining from incriminating people for ordinary, non-criminal activities. Unfortunately, four months after the release of this judgment, Turkish courts have not given a clear signal that they have aligned with it.

Reopening cases in Turkey that have already been presented to the European Court could present a viable solution. Although Turkish criminal procedure permits the reopening of a case if the European Court identifies a violation, this right is currently not extended to similar cases. Nevertheless, a recent ruling by the Turkish Constitutional Court lends support to this potential solution. Consequently, a legal amendment would be beneficial to address and clarify this issue explicitly. Unfortunately, I am unaware of any instance where a domestic court has approved reopening a case similar to Yalcinkaya.

Following the Yalcinkaya case, individuals convicted of terrorism charges based on their alleged membership in the GM should be acquitted. The Bylock evidence, riddled with numerous shortcomings, was examined by the Strasbourg Court, which criticised the Turkish court’s flawed examination without explicitly affirming its evidentiary value. However, given the significant deficiencies in the Bylock evidence, it becomes untenable for any impartial court to accept it as credible. Moreover, the Court identified a more substantial issue, emphasising a violation of Article 7. Thus, the result should be an acquittal.

Bas du formulaire

Interview with Mr Hakan Kaplankaya ECtHR YÜKSEL YALÇINKAYA v TÜRKİYE By Maria Popova
  1. Given the historical significance outlined in the Yalçınkaya judgment and its impact on Article 7 violations, can you elaborate on the specific legal principles related to the “legality of crimes and punishments” that make an Article 7 violation so severe and why the ECHR has been cautious in finding such violations for its member states over the years?”

The “No punishment without law” principle is a fundamental legal tenet. In societies governed by the rule of law, the violation of this principle is not encountered. The recent judgment marks the sixtieth violation ruling by the Court in its history. The incrimination of hundreds of thousands of people in contravention of this principle is profoundly shocking. Witnessing such a grave systemic violation is, in my view, a source of shame for all Europeans.

  1. The Yalçınkaya decision highlights a systemic issue with over 8,000 pending cases of a similar nature and suggests the potential for over 100,000 more cases based on ByLock usage. How do you think non-compliance with the Yalçınkaya decision could impact Turkey’s judicial system and its international standing, and what steps should the authorities, particularly the Constitutional Court, take to address this issue promptly?

As stated in the judgment, it is binding on the Turkish judiciary. Therefore, the Turkish Constitutional Court and other superior courts should align with it. Failure to do so may result in the European Court issuing violation judgments for similar cases and potential future applications. The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe will monitor the execution of the judgment, involving a political and diplomatic process. Significantly, according to the Turkish Constitution, the decisions of the European Court are binding, and I hope that they will eventually be implemented in Turkey by Turkish authorities.

Impacts of climate change on human rights

Presented by: Daphne Rein, Gauthier Schoufs, Ioana-Sorina Alexa, Leyang Fu and Luna Plet

Global climate change presents a significant and multifaceted challenge to Taiwan, with anticipated increases in temperatures, heightened frequency of heatwaves, and intensified typhoons and extreme rainfall events across the country. Between 2006 and 2020, Taiwan experienced 384 instances of extreme climate events, underscoring the pressing nature of this issue1. The devastating impact of Typhoon Marakot serves as a perfect illustration of climate change’s profound effects on the human rights of the Taiwanese population. In 2009, this Typhoon resulted in the tragic loss of 699 lives, the destruction of 1766 homes, and the displacement of 4500 residents. As an NGO committed to advancing educational rights, Broken Chalk seeks to highlight the direct and future implications of climate change on human rights in Taiwan, specifically on the right to education.

Drawing from the aftermath of Typhoon Marakot, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Taiwan reported that 1273 schools were adversely affected, depriving children of their fundamental right to education. Furthermore, the widespread internal displacement stemming from this event also compounds challenges to educational rights. The financial hardships and administrative obstacles caused by displacement may impede enrollment and hinder school attendance. In addition, linguistic barriers further exacerbate the educational rights violations associated with internal displacement2. This is specifically the case for minorities and indigenous people. It is noteworthy that Taiwan is home to 16 officially recognised indigenous groups, representing a total of 2,4% of its population3.

Moreover, areas managing a large influx of displaced persons may face limitations in providing quality education. The cumulative impact of these challenges, coupled with the trauma experienced by affected individuals, is likely to create additional barriers to effective schooling. Taking an equity-based approach, Broken Chalk underscores the urgent need for comprehensive strategies to address the intersection of climate change and the preservation of human rights. These efforts are crucial to averting future occurrences of a similar nature.

14A_Input_for_analytical_study_on_loss_and_damage

Download the PDF here.

Featured image by Susan Melkisethian on Flickr.


1 Mucahid Mustafa Bayrak, “Global Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples in Taiwan: A

Critical Bibliometric Analysis and Review”. 2020. Available online: https://www.mdpi.com/2071-

1050/13/1/29

2 UNESCO, « The Impact of Climate Displacemet on the right to education. » 2019. Available online: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000374966

3 Council of Indigenous Peoples Council Confirmed Tribe Area. 2020. Available online:

https://www.cip.gov.tw/portal/docList.html?CID=7CDD0E527E32B424

Red Hand Day Marks Urgent Call to End the Use of Child Soldiers

As the world observes an increase in conflicts across the globe, the use of child soldiers remains a reality on this day February 12. From the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and in the Gaza Strip, to the escalating violence following Afghanistan’s political upheaval after Taliban’s takeover, the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic further destabilise regions like Yemen, amplifying the risk of conflict. In Somalia, conflict-related deaths have reached a five-year high, while many other countries struggle with prolonged crises that are frequently disregarded by the international community. Amidst this turmoil, the most vulnerable suffer the gravest injustices. Boys and girls are coerced into combat, exploited for labour, and subjected to unimaginable horrors. Despite a UN treaty prohibiting the involvement of children under 18 in hostilities, there has been a lack of enforcement from the international community.

Children continue to be embroiled in armed conflicts across numerous nations. Their lives are characterised by peril, deprivation, and fear. Stripped of their innocence, they face the constant threat of ambushes, landmines, and gunfire, their existence devoid of basic necessities like food, water, and healthcare. Subjected to brutal discipline, many children perish under inhumane conditions, while others survive with lifelong physical or psychological scars, with girls, comprising a significant portion of child soldiers, endure additional horrors, including sexual violence and exploitation. The reality is that children are robbed of their childhoods, and forced into roles no child should ever have to bear.

Hence, the Red Hand Day, or the International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers campaign is a rallying call for action: urging governments, organisations, individuals, and the international community to confront this reality and provoke change. The history of Red Hand Day traces back to February 12, 2002, when the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict came into force. This protocol, also known as the “Paris Principles,” reaffirmed the international community’s stance against the recruitment and use of children in armed conflicti. The protocol established 18 as the minimum age for compulsory recruitment and participation in hostilities, with the aim of shielding children from the horrors of war and ensuring their access to education, health, and a safe environmentii.


Release of child soldiers. UNMISS/Nektarios Markogiannis. On Flickr.

At Broken Chalk, we stand in solidarity with the global community on Red Hand Day. We believe that every child, regardless of their circumstances, deserves equal access to quality education in a safe environment. Red Hand Day serves as a reminder of the ongoing challenges faced by more than 7622 children who are recruited as soldiers and deprived of their fundamental right to education (as estimated in a 2022 Annual Reportiii of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict to the UN General Assembly).

As we commemorate Red Hand Day, Broken Chalk is committed to advocating for policies and initiatives that prioritise the end of recruitment and use of children in armed conflict to fully implement the Paris Commitment. Moreover, we advocate for the protection, safety, financial support, peaceful education, reintegration, and support of children affected by armed conflict, ensuring that they can learn, grow, and thrive. Nevertheless, more actions need to be taken to hold accountable those who are responsible, in compliance with international humanitarian law, specifically the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Together, we can work towards a world where the red hands of child soldiers are replaced with books and pens, symbolising hope, resilience, and the promise of a brighter future.

Broken Chalk announces it to the public with due respect.

Signed,

Broken Chalk


i Human Rights Watch (n.d.). The Red Hand Day Campaign One million red hands against the use of child soldiers RESOURCE PACK. Available at https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/related_material/childsoldierresource.pdf

ii Red Hand Day: The suffering of the child soldiers. Red Hand Day. Available at https://www.redhandday.org/en/hintergrund

iii Children and armed conflict (2023, June 27). Report of the Secretary-General. Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict. Available at https://childrenandarmedconflict.un.org/document/secretary-general-annual-report-on-children-and-armed-conflict-2/

Freedom of Opinion and Expression to the Philippines

Presented by María Núñez Fontán and Olimpia Guidi

This report was presented to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights about the state of freedom of opinion and expression in the Philippines.

The Philippines, deeply committed to upholding human rights, has meticulously crafted a comprehensive national normative framework governing freedom of opinion and expression. This report will thoroughly examine various facets of this framework, particularly emphasising its educational dimensions.

13A_Freedom_of_opinion_and_expression_to_the_Philippines

Download the report PDF.

Featured image by Rachel Hinman on Flickr.

Education Monitor: Around The Globe between the 1st and 31st of October, 2023

Broken Chalk proudly presents a new edition of “Education Monitor: Around the Globe” between the 1st and 31st of October, 2023. Broken Chalk aims with this letter to increase public awareness of  Educational problems, challenges, and violations in the scope of the world. This newsletter is unique. This is a weekly newsletter in which we attempt to monitor and convey educational news from around the world in a concise manner. This monitor will be published biweekly with the effort of our young and enthusiastic team.

You can contribute to our work if you like. If you witness any violations in the scope of education, you can write the comment part of this post. Broken Chalk will try to address the issue in its next monitor edition.

Education-Monitor_Oct-1-31

To Download it as PDF: Follow this link.

Broken Chalk Platform, in March 2019, was founded by a group of educators abroad who experienced and have been experiencing severe human rights violations in Turkey and had to ask for asylum currently in several countries.

These education volunteers also suffered greatly and started their new lives in their new countries without human rights violations. They gained respect just because they were considered human beings in those countries. However, they left one part of their minds and hearts in their homeland. They assigned themselves a new duty, and the human rights violations they left behind had to be announced to the World. A group of education volunteers who came together for this purpose started their activities under the Broken Chalk platform’s umbrella. However, the Broken Chalk platform was not enough to serve their aims. Therefore, they completed their official establishment as a Human Rights Foundation in October 2020.

Broken Chalk is now much more than a platform, and we have reviewed and enlarged our vision and mission within this framework. Violations of rights would be the first in our agenda in the field of Education all over the World. At the point we reached today, Broken Chalk opened its door to all individuals from all across the globe, from all professions, and to all individuals who say or can say ‘I also want to stand against violations of human rights in Education for our future and whole humanity, where our generations grow up together.’

Education is essential because it can help us eliminate the evils from society, introduce, and increase the good. We want to draw the public’s and stakeholders’ attention to the fact that Education is in danger in several different parts of the World. The attacks are wide-reaching, from the bombing of schools to the murder of students and teachers. Raping and sexual violence, arbitrary arrests, and forced recruitment also occurred, instigated by armed groups. Attacks on Education harm the students and teachers but also affect the communities in the short and long term.

We invite all individuals who want to stop human rights violations in Education to become Volunteers at Broken Chalk.

Educational challenges in San Marino: COVID’s Impact

Written by Eliana Riggi

Background: COVID-19 pandemic impact on school systems around the world

The coronavirus, emerging in the first months of 2020, spread rapidly across countries, and it constituted an unprecedented challenge with which the entire world had to grapple. The pandemic had all-encompassing consequences for societies and states. Not only did it put a strain on national healthcare systems, but it also affected vital policy areas such as education.

Policies and frameworks were adapted to the new reality for national educational systems to be resilient. Governments devised and implemented ad hoc measures to hamper the transmission of the virus and guarantee the right to education simultaneously. School closures soon became a standard practice among countries, and they peaked in April 2020, affecting over 1.6 billion learners worldwide.

To ensure educational continuity, states transitioned from in-person instruction towards distance teaching and learning, extensively using tools such as broadcast media (radio, TV), take-home material packages and online learning platforms. Due to the emergency context, the transition was swift in many cases, but it did require tailored and adequate support to teachers, students and families. Furthermore, quarantines and virus containment measures led to reformed learning assessment methods and high-stakes examinations.

When a lessening of COVID-19 allowed for school reopening, the Ministry of Education coordinated with the rest of government representatives to make that safe. By and large, schools began to reopen in September 2020. Despite this, countries decided on criteria governing future school closures.

Inevitably, the pandemic had adverse effects on learning opportunities and effectiveness. Not every student accessed remote learning because of child labour, connectivity gaps and gender inequality. Thereby, minimum learning losses were unavoidable. In an attempt to mitigate these losses, funds were provided to boost internet access and, at a later time, remedial programmes were introduced. Even after school reopening, an increase in dropout and disengagement rates was observed, especially for students belonging to low-income or rural households. [[i]]

Mental issues affecting learners:  a call to action

Therefore, it seems evident that returning to in-person instruction is not enough to make COVID-19 consequences disappear. What is more, school is not only about learning, but it is also where personal development takes place. Schooling helps children and youth forge their values, ideas, interests, social skills and career aspirations, to name but a few. For this reason, the well-being of learners is essential to safeguard their right to education.

Undoubtedly, the mental health of students, teachers, parents and caregivers has been impacted by the pandemic.  Not only did the pandemic cause mental health issues, but it also exacerbated those already present.

School closures, social isolation, health risks and the death of loved ones have had severe psychological implications on learners. Indeed, children and youth were deprived of the interpersonal dimension of everyday life and could only enjoy face-to-face relationships with family members unless they were infected.  A screen became the only way to communicate and to see faces without masks. [[ii]] Moreover, the stress linked to economic instability and educational disruptions fostered a feeling of uncertainty about studies, aspirations, and school-to-work transition, creating the perception of a hopeless future. [[iii]]   

Critically, students were subjected to pandemic restrictions, but they did not engage in the decision-making processes. Even though they should have had a say in education policies, they could not easily make their voice heard, undermining their self-confidence. [[iv]]  

Extensive literature underlines the need to address learners’ mental issues and advocates the provision of support services to students. Since lockdowns, governments, especially in high-income countries, have acted by setting up hotlines, recruiting counsellors or launching projects facilitating students sharing feelings and concerns. [[v]]

As learning and personal development are strongly intertwined, the Council of Europe has promoted the historical study of crises in schools to help students understand how their peers reacted and felt in the past. Thus, studying history may create a sense of unity and empathy. [[vi]]

In the drawing, we read “Facciamoci contagiare… dai buoni sentimenti!” (Let good feelings contaminate us!). Lower-secondary school students made this and many more drawings during school closures. Picture by Scuola Media della Repubblica di San Marino via Facebook.

Education responses to the pandemic-resulted predicament in San Marino

The Republic of San Marino executed its plan to cope with the pandemic first and foremost by means of nationwide school closures from 23 February to 10 June 2020, but the closures continued until the end of August because of the usual summer academic break. [[vii]] In view of the unfolding pandemic, a mixed approach between in-person instruction and remote learning was adopted. Then, there were only partial school closures during the academic year 2020/2021. To sum up, from March 2020 to August 2021, 4,170 learners were affected by school closures, and most of them belonged to lower- and upper-secondary education levels.

As a result of school closures, authorities opted for a distance learning strategy employing online learning platforms for all education levels. Remote learning required the government to provide teachers with instructions on remote teaching, pedagogy workshops, ICT tools and free connectivity while enabling them to teach from school premises. The coverage of online learning platforms was crucial to safeguard the right to education and educational continuity for all learners. Hence, the distance learning strategy embraced policies that did pay attention to students with disabilities. The latter could attend courses on school premises and were supported with tailored materials. For instance, sign language was included in online learning programmes. Schools committed to offering vulnerable households internet subscriptions and devices at subsidised or zero costs to foster students’ access to connectivity.

A monitoring process was facilitated by observing students’ participation in online classes, their scheduled delivery of assignments, and their participation in written and oral tests. It is confirmed that more than 75 % of students attended distance learning during school closures. More importantly, the collaboration and mutual support between schools and families was enhanced through follow-up practices such as phone calls, instant messaging, emailing, videoconferencing and running household surveys on remote learning strategies.

As regards high-stake examinations for the secondary level, they were not cancelled or postponed, but they took place only via online-based oral tests, and they assessed reduced curriculum content.

As the academic year 2019/2020 was profoundly impacted by the coronavirus disease, the school calendar for the subsequent academic year 2020/2021 was adjusted with the start date on 1 September 2020, two weeks ahead of the previous schedule. The government preferred not to extend the duration of classes or the content of curricula. Learning assessments were organised at the classroom level to address learning losses, and authorities decided to launch remedial programmes in primary- and secondary-level schools as of September 2020.

After school reopening, students’ participation was monitored, and it showed that 100 % of students had attended school since September 2020, except for upper-secondary level schools where attendance share was more than 75% but not 100%. The return to in-person instruction was combined with health and hygiene precautionary measures. In the first place, hand-washing practice, using masks, temperature checks, equipment disinfection and the tracking of COVID-19-infected or exposed people were furthered and supervised by school committees. Moreover, adjustments to school and classroom physical arrangements, reducing or suspending extra-curricular activities, and combining remote and in-person learning were the most widely enforced measures. Teaching in schools’ outdoor places was encouraged in pre-primary and primary schools, whereas the progressive return of students divided into age-based cohorts concerned only pre-primary schools. Finally, classroom attendance scheduled in shifts was promoted exclusively in lower- and upper-secondary schools.

Since the pandemic had far-reaching consequences on education, the Republic of San Marino could rely on additional funds to recruit non-teaching safety personnel in all schools and teachers in pre-primary and primary schools in the academic year 2020/2021. However, only reallocations within the ordinary or even reduced education budget allowed the government to increase the education staff compensation, student loans and scholarships.

In addition to the policies implemented for school reopening, the government determined coronavirus national prevalence rates as the criterion for closing schools again. [[viii]]

The well-being of San Marino students: concerns and efforts

In San Marino’s statement, delivered during the 2022 Transforming Education Summit, the then-heads of State, the Captains Regent of the Republic of San Marino, Mr Oscar Mina II and Mr Paolo Rondelli I, recognised the two main functions of education: learning and personal development. In this respect, they declared the state’s willingness to continue abiding by the principles of equality and inclusiveness. Concerning COVID-19, they emphasise the pandemic consequences on students’ mental health and the educational system’s commitment to standing up to those. [[ix]]

Accordingly, San Marino authorities have been putting great effort into supporting students’ psychological well-being so far. During nationwide school closures, online counselling and teacher assistants lent learners a hand in facing pandemic hard times. In 2021, counselling points were arranged in secondary schools and the Centro di formazione professionale (vocational training centre).

The provision of assistance soon revealed the worrisome framework compounded by the pandemic. During the academic years 2020/2021 and 2021/2022, more than 130 students turned to the counselling services. Issues such as fear, anxiety, problematic anger management, eating and mood disorders, panic attacks, bullying and self-harm were detected. In some cases, they led to truancy and dropout. [[x]] As well, manifold addictions rose during the pandemic and after. Among them, social media, drug, and video game addictions have been widespread.The reason why COVID-19 has aggravated addictions lies in the fact that vulnerabilities consolidated while learners were suffering isolation. Consequently, youth specifically deemed social media, drugs or video games as an escape hatch from the gloomy reality. [[xi]]

Along with counselling services in secondary schools, authorities approved several projects for caring for children in pre-primary and primary schools. Both in 2021 and 2022, artists, teachers and doctors engaged together in school projects. The Giornata degli abbracci (Hugs Day) was outstanding among the initiatives. Considering that the pandemic had altered children’s emotional balance, the Giornata degli abbracci, which took place on 9 June 2022, aimed at restoring mutual trust, solidarity and good mood. [[xii]]  

In December 2022, the government went one step further. After that, citizens called for the direct democracy mechanism Istanza d’ Arengo, a new professional figure, was established. Doctor Rosita Guidi has been appointed as a school psychologist. The school psychologist services are aimed at students of every level, from pre-primary to secondary schools and the vocational training centre. Dr Rosita Guidi can handle counselling requests from students, parents/caregivers, teachers and school committees. If the request concerns a minor, parents’ consent is compulsory.

The school psychologist comes to the aid of learners, teachers and families to promote the well-being of children and youth. When necessary, the undertaking of therapy paths may be suggested. [[xiii]] Although the school psychologist can easily be contacted (directly and via email), schools endorse additional methods due to privacy considerations. For instance, lower-secondary school students can request by inserting a note filled with personal and contact information in a sealed box.

The psychological support service has been warmly welcomed, given that, from December 2022 to April 2023, 60 requests were sent. [[xiv]]   

With regard to students’ voice expression, San Marino has embarked on a renovation process planning to upgrade school curricula with interdisciplinarity, digital and citizenship competencies. The latter is meant to enhance the culture of peace, the education for sustainable development, human rights and gender education. Through this enrichment, students are on the right path to taking responsibility, raising their self-confidence and becoming active citizens in the democratic framework. [[xv]]

Conclusion

Two years after the pandemic outbreak, during the 2022 Transforming Education Summit, 57 % of governments stated the need to support the psycho-social well-being of students and teachers. Along the same line, international organisations and experts have incited states to invest steadily significant and adequate resources in supporting learners’ mental health. [[xvi]] Schools play a crucial role in this sensitive domain, and their role is all the more important if families do not notice psychological distress or underestimate it. San Marino has endeavoured to make the national educational system resilient to the pandemic, and its achievements have been relevant. Specifically, new counselling services have contributed to the country’s journey towards transformed education. It would be worthwhile to fund these services to a greater extent. Also, psychology training for all education staff has been proposed. [[xvii]] For all these reasons, even if San Marino’s educational transformation process is relatively recent, it is promising.

Cover Image via Wikimedia Commons


References:

[[i]] Soroptimist International (2021, March). Solidarity of NGOs facing the pandemic: educationhttps://www.soroptimistinternational.org/solidarity-of-ngos-facing-the-pandemic-education/ ; UNESCO, UNICEF, The World Bank (2020, October). What have we learnt? Overview of findings from a survey of ministries of education on national responses to COVID-19 https://data.unicef.org/resources/national-education-responses-to-covid19/#:~:text=Compiling%20data%20from%20surveys%20on,by%20teachers%20and%20were%20more; UNESCO, UNICEF, The World Bank and OECD (2021, June). What’s next? Lessons on Education Recovery: Findings from a Survey of Ministries of Education amid the COVID-19 Pandemic https://covid19.uis.unesco.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/11/2021/07/National-Education-Responses-to-COVID-19-Report2_v3.pdf

[[ii]] Giannini, S. (2020, April). Prioritise health and well-being now and when schools reopen. UNESCO https://www.unesco.org/en/articles/prioritize-health-and-well-being-now-and-when-schools-reopen; World Health Organization (2022, June). The impact of COVID-19 on mental health cannot be made light of https://www.who.int/news-room/feature-stories/detail/the-impact-of-covid-19-on-mental-health-cannot-be-made-light-of

[[iii]] International Labour Organization, AIESEC, European Union, European Youth Forum, UN Major Group for Children and Youth, UN OHCHR (2020, August). Youth & COVID-19: Impacts on jobs, education, rights and mental well-being https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—ed_emp/documents/publication/wcms_753026.pdf 

[[iv]] UNESCO, Council of Europe (2021, November). The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on student voice, Findings and recommendations https://rm.coe.int/finalpublication-theimpact-of-covid19-on-student-voice/1680a42e52

[[v]] UNESCO (2021, March). One year into COVID: Prioritising education recovery to avoid a generational catastrophe, Report of UNESCO Online Conference https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000376984 ; UNESCO, Council of Europe (2021, November). The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on student voice, Findings and recommendations https://rm.coe.int/finalpublication-theimpact-of-covid19-on-student-voice/1680a42e52; UNESCO, UNICEF, The World Bank and OECD (2021, June). What’s next? Lessons on Education Recovery: Findings from a Survey of Ministries of Education amid the COVID-19 Pandemic https://covid19.uis.unesco.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/11/2021/07/National-Education-Responses-to-COVID-19-Report2_v3.pdf 

[[vi]] Council of Europe (2020, October). Making the right to education a reality in times of COVID-19, A Roadmap for Action on the Council of Europe education response to COVID-19 https://rm.coe.int/making-the-right-to-education-a-reality-in-times-of-covid-19-a-roadmap/16809fee7b

[[vii]] Pre-primary school closures lasted until 7 June 2020, and the academic year 2019/2020 was extended just for them. School closures-related data can be visualised in interactive maps in the UNESCO Web Archive at the following address: https://webarchive.unesco.org/web/20220625033513/https://en.unesco.org/covid19/educationresponse#durationschoolclosures

[[viii]] The information given in this section is contained in San Marino’s responses to the first and third rounds of the four-round Surveyon national Education Responses to COVID-19 School Closures. The first and third rounds of the survey were conducted respectively from May to June 2020 and from February to April 2021. The reader may find more detailed information about the four-round Surveyon national Education Responses to COVID-19 School Closures at the following address: https://tcg.uis.unesco.org/survey-on-national-education-responses-to-covid-19-school-closures/

[[ix]] San Marino (2022, September). National Declaration of Commitment at the 2022 Transforming Education Summit https://www.un.org/sites/un2.un.org/files/2022/09/san_marino-commitment-statement-french-english-v.pdf . More about governments’ declarations of commitment at the 2022 Transforming Education Summit can be read at the following address: https://www.un.org/en/transforming-education-summit/member-states-statements

[[x]] Salvatori, L. (2022, April). Disagio giovanile: con la pandemia, quasi quadruplicati i nuovi casi. San Marino RTV https://www.sanmarinortv.sm/news/politica-c2/disagio-giovanile-con-la-pandemia-quasi-quadruplicati-i-nuovi-casi-a222522

[[xi]] Camparsi, M. L. (2023, February). Disagio giovanile e dipendenze preadolescenziali: una giornata di formazione a San Marino. San Marino RTV https://www.sanmarinortv.sm/news/attualita-c4/disagio-giovanile-e-dipendenze-preadolescenziali-una-giornata-di-formazione-a-san-marino-a236227

[[xii]] Giornata degli Abbracci: importante momento di condivisione per la fine della scuola. (2022, June). San Marino RTV https://www.sanmarinortv.sm/news/attualita-c4/giornata-degli-abbracci-importante-momento-di-condivisione-per-la-fine-della-scuola-a224659

[[xiii]] More details concerning the school psychologist services are available in the national education portal called Portale dell’ Educazione della Repubblica di San Marino at the following address: http://www.media.educazione.sm/on-line/home-portale-scuole-medie/la-scuola/spazio-dascolto.html

[[xiv]] Giuccioli, A. (2023, April). Lo psicologo entra a scuola in aiuto di giovani e famiglie. In tre mesi oltre 60 richieste. San Marino RTV https://www.sanmarinortv.sm/news/attualita-c4/lo-psicologo-entra-a-scuola-in-aiuto-di-giovani-e-famiglie-in-tre-mesi-oltre-60-richieste-a238898

[[xv]] San Marino (2022, September). National Declaration of Commitment at the 2022 Transforming Education Summit https://www.un.org/sites/un2.un.org/files/2022/09/san_marino-commitment-statement-french-english-v.pdf

[[xvi]] Giannini, S. (2020, April). Prioritise health and well-being now and when schools reopen. UNESCO https://www.unesco.org/en/articles/prioritize-health-and-well-being-now-and-when-schools-reopen; World Health Organization (2022, June). The impact of COVID-19 on mental health cannot be made light of https://www.who.int/news-room/feature-stories/detail/the-impact-of-covid-19-on-mental-health-cannot-be-made-light-of ; United Nations (2023, January). Report on the 2022 Transforming Education Summit https://www.un.org/sites/un2.un.org/files/report_on_the_2022_transforming_education_summit.pdf  ; World Health Organization (2022, March). Young people leading the way to a brighter post-COVID worldhttps://www.who.int/news-room/feature-stories/detail/young-people-leading-the-way-to-a-brighter-post-covid-world

[[xvii]] Camparsi, M. L. (2023, February). Disagio giovanile e dipendenze preadolescenziali: una giornata di formazione a San Marino. San Marino RTV https://www.sanmarinortv.sm/news/attualita-c4/disagio-giovanile-e-dipendenze-preadolescenziali-una-giornata-di-formazione-a-san-marino-a236227