“When I was first appointed as United Nations Resident Coordinator two and a half years ago, it was clear to many that beyond the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic, the education system was managing complex and long-standing obstacles, including a highly decentralized education sector. , outdated infrastructure and a decreasing number of students.
These barriers were contributing to educational challenges across the country. For example, in 2018, the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) assessment found that 15-year-old students in Bosnia and Herzegovina fell far short in reading, math and science skills. ‘Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. ) OECD average, although spending per student is relatively high compared to the country’s gross domestic product.
UNICEF Bosnia and Herzegovina/Adnan Bubalo
From crisis to opportunity
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the learning of over 400,000 students across Bosnia and Herzegovina, bringing these challenges to light. Yet it also gave the UN a unique opportunity to support authorities in education reform across the country.
As the pandemic unfolded in 2020, United Nations agencies in Bosnia and Herzegovina came together to prioritize education as a priority in our COVID-19 recovery efforts. A rapid needs assessment in March-April 2020 by the United Nations children’s agency (UNICEF) and the United Nations agency for education, culture and science (UNESCO) provided the basis for the development of a United Nations education recovery programme.
The cornerstone, a joint project, was launched under the leadership of UNICEF and UNESCO, in partnership with the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Volunteers (UNV), called “Reimagine Education for Marginalized Boys and Girls during and post COVID-19”. .
The project was one of 18 projects worldwide to receive support from the UN Secretary-General’s COVID-19 Recovery Fund, and the only one to focus on the education sector. More importantly, this project has been a catalyst to strengthen United Nations support to authorities to strengthen cooperation between ministries, improve teaching capacities, upgrade ICT equipment and develop new information platforms. digital learning.
The immediate impact was clear. Between February 2021 and March 2022, UNICEF, UNESCO and ILO trained 2,498 teachers on digital learning and teaching, while providing 664 digital devices (laptops and assistive technologies ) to 110 schools (26% of the total number of schools).
Towards shared educational commitments
As the emergency phase of COVID receded, it became clear that the learning resources, training and equipment provided by the United Nations had helped strengthen collaboration between the country’s many ministries of education and other stakeholders.
Building on this sense of synergy and cooperation, in the run-up to the Transforming Education Summit, under the coordination leadership of the Ministry of Civil Affairs and in excellent cooperation with the Entities, Cantons and Brcko District, the Nations in Bosnia and Herzegovina convened a series of three pre-Summit consultations with nearly 1,500 participants from governmental and non-governmental sectors, schools, universities, youth and the private sector.
More than half of the participants (845) involved in the consultations were under 30 years old. After a summer of inclusive dialogue and discussion, education authorities submitted a report and statement of commitment to the Transformation Education Summit Secretariat in New York.
This declaration was adopted by the 16 ministers responsible for education affairs at different levels of government in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This is the first national policy position on education adopted in twenty years.
As we move forward, UNESCO and UNICEF are working to support education authorities to develop an action plan focused on implementing the commitments set out in the Declaration.
The value of our joint efforts to transform and unite the education agenda across Bosnia and Herzegovina has also been recognized by our partners. As part of the European Union’s extensive support to Bosnia and Herzegovina, the EU envisages a stronger commitment to support education over the next 10 years, with UNESCO and UNICEF actively supporting the identification of educational priorities.
The path to sustainable transformation
As we prepare for an exciting week of dialogue, discussion and engagement at the Transforming Education Summit in New York, I am proud of the steps we have taken to support authorities in education sector reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina and to build a more inclusive environment, a high quality and relevant learning experience for all.
While Bosnia and Herzegovina still faces many challenges on the road to quality education, I have learned over the past two years that with clear global leadership, supported by catalytic pooled funding and true partnership within the United Nations with the authorities, we are now uniquely placed in Bosnia and Herzegovina to achieve these unique transformative educational changes within a generation. »