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Panelists discuss global education and advocacy

By Danielle Gross
On October 25, 2011

Positive Foundations and the United Nations Association of Greater Boston presented a panel event on Global Education in the Mandel Center for the Humanities yesterday. The event, "Ensuring Literacy and Quality Education for All" was presented in celebration of United Nations Day.

Positive Foundations Director of Policy, Kate Alexander '12, introduced the panelists: Prof. Jane Hale (ROMS), founder and director of two family literacy programs, and Brian Callahan, a representative from the Global Campaign for Education.

According to the Facebook page for Positive Foundations, the club is dedicated to the alleviation of extreme poverty through assisting the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals."

Hale discussed her literacy programs. First she spoke about the Malapa A Balang Lesotho, or "Family Literacy Lesotho," program, which was founded by Hale in 2007. Hale stated, "Our mission is to encourage the development of beautiful children's picture books in Sesotho [the language of Lesotho], or about Lesotho and put them in the hands of all the Lesotho children."

Famni Ki Li Ansamn, or "Families Reading Together," is Hale's newer project. In 2010, she and some of her students founded a project that strived to increase family literacy through picture books for Haitians in both the United States and Haiti.

Callahan, a graduate of San Francisco State University, is the acting director in the Global Campaign for Education.

GCE is a coalition of more than 30 organizations working together to ensure access to quality education for children in developing countries.

Callahan explained, "There are two Millennium Development Goals that deal with education. There's MDG2 and MDG3."

According to the United Nations website, MDG2 is to "Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling." MDG3 calls to "Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005, and at all levels by 2015."

Callahan stressed that the problem is not even so much the lack of education but the poor quality of the education for those who do receive it.

Callahan then went on to explain the importance of political will, which is the culmination of three factors: opinion, intensity and salience.

He continued in relaying the four important factors in advocating for change: map the community for like-minded supporters, identify policymakers in charge of the policy trying to be changed, build a relationship with policymakers when promoting advocacy and remember that the media is a largely important tool when doing advocacy work.

When he finished, the floor was opened to the audience for questions.

The questions asked involved micro-finance mechanisms, thoughts on how the government should better allot the aid money, steps involved to finding local advocacy allies, movement of funds from budget to quality education and what the successful tactics in the International Literacy movement have been.

In an interview with the Justice, Callahan said that his goals were met for the event. He also said that he was very impressed with the level of knowledge and the level of questions asked by students.

When asked what he thought the most important point of the night was, Callahan answered with, "What I hope people will take away is the importance of advocacy in general and advocacy on education for all."  

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