Posted on October 19, 2016

The World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) recently concluded a series of high-level meetings in Paris and Brussels focusing on the current refugee challenge to European education sectors. The WISE Prize for Education Laureate, Dr Sakena Yacoobi, was a featured speaker at roundtable discussions and informal discussions in both European capitals.

In Brussels, WISE officials also met with the European Union (EU) Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides, who expressed his interest in the work of WISE and Qatar Foundation (QF), as well as in possible collaboration on future education initiatives.

Also in Brussels, WISE partnered with the government of Norway in organising a high-level roundtable discussion on refugee issues.The engagement was an opportunity for the participants to explore successful creative solutions that are transforming lives through education and skills development.  The panel brought together several prominent speakers including Dr Sakena Yacoobi,WISE Prize for Education Laureate, and Director of the Afghan Institute for Learning; and Ms Oda Helen Sletnes,the Norwegian Ambassador to the European Union. 

Stavros N Yiannouka, CEO, WISE, also spoke at the event.“Providing quality education to refugees is not just a moral imperative. It is an economic necessity and opportunity,” he said. Also in attendance was Rodrigo Ballester, Head of Cabinet for Tibor Navracsics, EU Commissioner for Education, Youth, and Sport.HE Ahmad Seyar Maaliji, the Charge d’Affaires of the Embassy and Mission of Afghanistan to the EU, also took part in the gathering.

In Paris,WISE partnered with the French education magazine L’Etudiant, and under the patronage of UNESCO, took part in a high-level panel discussion focusing on the current refugee challenge to education sectors. The discussion was presented before an audience of some 100 education experts and officials from international organisations and associations. Dr Sakena Yacoobi addressed the panel in a discussion entitled,‘Education and Displaced People: Why is it important to open our schools and universities to refugees?’Commenting on the topic, Dr Yacoobi remarked: “We want refugees to be part of a country, not a burden. Education is the solution.We have to develop an innovative curriculum to encourage leadership, accountability and values.”

The Brussels and Paris events organised by WISE were focused on a wide range of refugee-related challenges and opportunities. Areas of discussion included education and skills development being key to helping displaced individuals of all ages to reconstruct their lives; and how higher-skilled refugees can benefit the local economy.  Among the questions posed to participants were: ‘How can we leverage existing resources to better assimilate displaced learners in schools and universities?’; ‘Should national curricula be adapted to better meet their cultural and educational needs?’; ‘Can learners from host countries play a stronger role in helping these students?’; ‘How can teachers be supported in developing skills for classroom management?’

Mr Daniel Janicot, President of the French National Commission for UNESCO, also participated and emphasised his interest in future collaboration with WISE.Mr Kishore Singh, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education for the United Nations, expressed his great interest in WISE and in supporting its work.

WISE officials also accompanied Dr Yacoobion a visit to the French National Assembly in Paris. They took part in an in depth roundtable discussion on refugee issues, and met privately with several officials.Among other participants at the engagement were members of Parliament, and senior officials from the French Commission of UNESCO, UNHCR - France, the Total Foundation, the French Ministry of Education; as well as representatives from French business school, ESSEC.

Governments around the world are scrambling to address the biggest refugee crisis since the end of the Second World War. In Europe alone, over one million individuals have requested entry since 2015. France is among the most prominent countries grappling with the challenge. But the lack of public systems and policies to integrate refugees, coupled with limited resources and opportunities, put millions, especially children, at risk of becoming part of a ‘lost generation’. According to a new UNICEF report, 65 million children worldwide are on the move in search of a safer and better life.

WISE is an initiative of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF). First awarded in 2011, the WISE Prize for Education recognises an individual or a team for outstanding achievement in any field of education.