UK personalities join high profile names from around the world to support UNESCO in calling for more inclusive education in the face of the pandemic.

Lucy Edwards of BBC Radio 1.

High-profile telly personalities have spoken out in support of the calls for more inclusive education systems in UNESCO’s 2020 Global Education Monitoring Report released earlier this week.

The report, All means All, showed that exclusion in education had deepened during the COVID-19 pandemic, showing, among other facts, that about 40% of low and lower-middle income countries had not supported disadvantaged learners during school shutdowns. Celebrities, all with strong personal reasons for giving their support, joined the Report’s calls for countries to focus on those left behind as schools reopen after the COVID-19 shut-downs.

The 2020 GEM Report shows that children with disabilities are two and half times more likely to never go to school as their peers. Many of those lending their voice were born with a disability, including British TV personality, Adam Pearson, BBC presenter, Lucy Edwards, contestant on Great British Bake Off, Bryony May Williams, British stand-up comedian, Lee Ridley and actor and disability campaigner, Samantha Renke. Paralympic medallist, Ade Adepitan, also spoke out: “My school taught me to let nothing hold me back in achieving my goals. The same should go for every child”.

Comedian Sally Phillips.

Celebrities from around the world joined UK personalities calling for change. Some were driven by the fact that one of their own children is living with a disability, including Chilean actress and model, Leonor Varela, whose son tragically passed away in 2018, and American actor, Christopher Gorham, whose son has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. Actress and comedian, Sally Phillips, whose son was born with Down Syndrome, asked, “We are none of us the same, so why do so many in education believe students’ potential is dictated by their background or identity?”

The Report provides an in-depth analysis of key factors excluding learners in education systems, i.e. gender, age, location, poverty, disability, ethnicity, indigeneity, language, religion, migration or displacement status, sexual orientation or gender identity expression, incarceration, beliefs and attitudes. It shows that the exclusion faced by many learners is likely to have exacerbated during the pandemic and calls for more inclusive education systems once the pandemic is over.

“The COVID-19 education crisis was fuelled by pre-existing inequalities, but countries have not paid enough attention to the marginalized in their responses. Education should be built for all – not a few,” Colombian superstar, Shakira said.

“UNESCO’s new GEM Report is an urgent call for more inclusive education to make a more inclusive world. Let’s answer the call,” said former US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

“Those of you who know me well, know I care deeply about the education of our youth. But this education is not always easy to access, and this is why I became a UNESCO ambassador. Even before schools shut due to the virus, many were already left without access to proper education. So I am asking you to read and share the GEM Report from UNESCO, which calls for schools to be more inclusive after this global shutdown,” said football legend, Pele.

The Report has ten recommendations for countries to move towards more inclusive systems, underlining the importance of countries’ celebrating diversity in education, rather than seeing it as a problem. Caecilie Liv Carlson, dance choreographer and performer also passionate about education lent her support to the calls for change.

UNESCO’s 2020 Global Education Monitoring ReportĀ 

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