Nurturing quality learning requires an education system that provides adequate physical infrastructure, safe and inclusive environments. A safe and inclusive environment is free from sexual discrimination and violence of all forms including, sexual harassment, and corporal punishment. Resources that make a good learning environment include; water, sanitation, electricity, computers, Internet, instructional materials and classrooms, among others.
It is also crucial that girls and women have safe learning environments. Research shows that attention to hygiene and in particular access to sanitary pads and adequate toilets has positive effect on girls’ attendance and performance. Participation in education is also enhanced when rights and needs of children, youth and adults with disabilities are taken into consideration.
The priority goal setting for all the countries to achieve SDG 4 as stated in Target 4.4a is,
Target 4.a: Build and upgrade education facilities that are child, disability and gender sensitive and provide safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all These calls for appropriate policies and actions to ensure that there are safe and effective learning environment in all the education institutions. In this policy brief, the context and situational analysis of the Arab States region is presented followed by policy recommendations on improvement and provision of adequate physical infrastructure, safe and inclusive environments.
Context The Arab state region consists of 19 countries that are in three categories: Least developing countries, Mashreq and Maghreb. The Least Developing Countries (LDC) are; Mauritania, Sudan and Yemen. The
category of Mashreq countries are; Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria. Maghreb includes Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia. The Arab Region is the only developing region that reported increase in poverty and hunger since 1990. Extreme poverty has increased and the rate of reducing undernourishment is below the target by 20% (UNDP, 2014). Great disparities exist among the Arab States regions. Since the year 2000, the Arab state region countries have made considerable progress in achieving the Education for All goals. However, the most significant challenge to progress in education is conflict which exacerbates inequality, poverty, exclusion and marginalization and in particular access to quality education. For this reason, there is need for an enabling policy in the Arab States region taking into consideration best practices and experiences.
Situation Analysis In monitoring the progress for Target 4a of the education 2030 agenda, the focus is on resources and environment. There are four indicators that are to be used to measure the adequacy of school resources: 1) proportion of schools that have access to basic drinking water, adequate sanitation, and adequate hygiene services; 2) pupil-to-computer ratio by level; 3) proportion of schools that have access to electricity and internet access for pedagogical purposes and 4) proportion of schools that have adapted infrastructure and materials for people with disabilities. Similarly, the monitoring of the environment is based on two indicators: 1) proportion of students experiencing bullying, corporal punishment, harassment, violence, sexual discrimination and abuse; and 2) number of attacks on students, personnel and institutions.
Due to lack of comparable data, the benchmark information on status of the school resources and environment in the Arab State Region is not available. However, the Arab States Region countries have a favorable environment for ICT development with countries in the Gulf region having achieved relatively high rates of ICT access in schools.
Policy Recommendations A set of strategic approaches are proposed to inform actions to deliver and monitor progress towards building and upgrading education facilities that are child, disability and gender sensitive and providing safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all in the Arab States Region. The proposed strategies that focus on resources and environment are as follows:
i. Review, develop and implement policies and plans that promote safe and free from violence education facilities There should be policies and plans that promote safe and free learning environment that are free from violence including gender and disability sensitive guidelines. The aim is to protect learners, teachers and staff from violence within the framework of violence-free schools.
ii. Equip schools with adequate school resources including water, electricity and sanitation and ensure security Every learning institution should be secure and also have adequate resources that include; water, electricity, accessible and gender-segregated toilets, adequate and safe classrooms, appropriate learning materials and technology.
iii. Ascertain equal resource distribution It is important that resources are allocated equitably between socio-economically advantaged and disadvantaged schools and learning centers.