20th CCEM- Note from the Chairperson
On behalf of all students and the Steering Committee of the Commonwealth Students’ Association (CSA), as the Chairperson of the CSA , I would like to express our immense gratitude to have taken part in the first education stakeholders Integrated Partners Forum, which was a vibrant expression of Sustainable Development Goal 17, Partnerships for the Goals. In the past couple of years after the agreement on the SDGs, international organizations have discussed robustly the involvement of young persons in implementing these goals and integrating youth voices in shaping future policies. It is particularly commendable that the Commonwealth has leapfrogged in implementing this, leading the discussion and culminating it into action.
The CSA would like to sincerely express our gratitude to the Government of Fiji and to the Secretary-General for providing the CSA with such a fantastic platform where students get an opportunity to interact directly with the other stakeholders of education. Platforms like these enable students and young people to be partners in shaping the education arena in the Commonwealth. Our heartfelt gratitude goes out to Madam Secretary-General for her passion and advocacy for youth voices in decision making. Like she had mentioned, ‘Individually you are invisible but together, we are invincible’. The CSA aims to promote unity among student organizations, protect the rights of students and foster a sustainable learning environment in educational institutes in the Commonwealth.
It is with great humility that we represent and amplify the voices of students throughout the member states. At the last CCEM, our scope expanded beyond university students to cater for a wider spectrum of studentship as we work to re-shape the Commonwealth’s future. The CSA was established in 2012 as an outcome of the 17th and 18th CCEM Student Forums. Together with the Commonwealth Secretariat, the CSA published a report on the Status of Student Governance in the Commonwealth (2016). It was reported that only 51% of our member states have national student organizations and that we are still far from democratizing education as we envisioned in the Education 2030 Framework for Action. The framework engages students in policy formulation, implementation, and review as we work to achieve SDG4, inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning for all.
In collaboration with the Commonwealth Secretariat and the National Union of Students (NUS) in the UK, we developed a Toolkit on Student Governance and conducted a pilot run in Kenya. As an initiative launched at the General Assembly in Ghana in 2017, we are working with the All-Africa Students Union (AASU) to train student leaders in the whole continent. We look forward to partnering and working with different stakeholders in all countries in the Commonwealth to train student leaders while complementing their best practices.
I do acknowledge that within the Commonwealth, individual countries have diverse issues to address based on their varying needs. These issues impact our sustainability and require resilience in addressing them. Here, we can learn from one another and use policies and strategies that have worked for some and adapt it to suit our respective cultures and community values. We also need to streamline our focus on achieving educational equity.
I would like to take this opportunity to share about how I became an advocate for high-quality education. As a skeletal muscle biologist, I have been conferred with a Doctor of Philosophy from the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore last year. Growing up in a country and an education system which prioritizes meritocracy and ability regardless of race, language, religion, or social status, enabled a girl like me, belonging to a minority race in Singapore to receive a stellar education in some of the best institutions. It is my desire, to see my story replicated throughout the Commonwealth. We cannot discuss sustainability and resilience without focusing on SDG 4, which facilitates the execution of other goals.
I hope that the opportunities that I have received can become a realistic dream for young boys and girls all over the Commonwealth. It is important that we as young people take advantage of platforms and forums like the IPF to raise our concerns, amplify the voices of young people, exchange ideas and suggest solutions in order to contribute to shaping the future policies for education. These are our chances at the decision-making table so we must make the most of it and partner different stakeholders deliver education goals of the Commonwealth.