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The Transforming Education Summit (TES) will take place at UN Headquarters in New York on September 19, 2022. It will aim to mobilize greater political ambition, commitment, and action to reverse the slide on SDG 4, reimagine education, and accelerate progress on education and the 2030 Agenda more broadly for the remainder of the Decade of Action.
Building off the landmark commitment at the 2022 Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, IAPB and the Friends of Vision group are working to bring the issue of child eye health to the forefront of national consultations and to promote member state commitments that address the inequity around access to education and health services by providing sight tests, affordable glasses, and other treatments for all children by 2030. The summit’s concluding document, the Secretary-Generals Summary Report, will help inform future UN summits and the 2045 Development Agenda. elevate the role of vision in subsequent UN summits.
The Transforming Education Pre-Summit in Paris brought together global policy makers, government ministers and young people to harness evolving discussions to generate greater momentum and shared understanding on key elements of transforming education. Countries presented preliminary outcomes of consultations, shared key elements of commitment, and presented initiatives where potential coalitions and partnerships with shared vision could be explored.
IAPB set up a promotional hub in the Global Village at UNESCO Headquarters and used innovative public campaign materials based on the theme: ‘If you Struggle to See, You Struggle to Learn’ to engage with attending delegates and build interest and support for school eye health programmes. IAPB distributed over 200 ‘workbooks’ with key child eye health and education messages and collected countless signatures on a ‘commitment chalkboard’ calling for the adoption of school-based eye health programmes and policies. Notable people who signed the board included, the Youth Representative of the SDG4 High-Level Steering Committee, Ministers of Education for Sierra Leone and Nepal, and representatives from UNICEF and UNESCO.
IAPB also attended the Pre-Summit Ministerial segment. A list of speakers as well as more information on the Paris Pre-Summit events and meetings can be found here.
IAPB developed a comprehensive brief, School Eye Health Programs: The critical role of vision for achieving inclusive and equitable education for all, that provided key messages and evidence supporting the adoption of school eye health programs within health promoting initiatives. The brief also provided language member states could use in their national commitments around thematic Action Track 1. The brief has been widely distributed across the UN system with a cover letter signed by all three Friends of Vision co-chair ambassadors calling for commitments to addressing child eye health as a route to inclusive and equitable education.
The UN Friends of Vision Group held the official side event, “If you Struggle to See, You Struggle to Learn: Accelerating Progress Towards the SDGs through School Eye Health Programmes,” at the 2022 High-Level Political Forum. The event, which made direct links to the TES and the inclusion of child eye health, focused on the critical role comprehensive school eye programmes play in achieving substantial progress on SDG4 – Quality Education, and across the 2030 Agenda. Speakers included UN Ambassadors, a keynote address by His Excellency the President of the Republic of Botswana, Dr. Mokgweetsi E.K. Masisi, MP, a World Bank Economist, child eye health expert, WHO Director and a Technical Specialist on School Health and Nutrition from Save the Children.
The summit is structured around preparatory work streams, including national consultations, public engagement and Thematic Action Tracks which identify evidence-based examples of successful policy interventions, mobilize new commitments to action, build on and strengthen existing initiatives, and identify key elements for education to be fit for the future.
Use the prepared template letter to initiate a letter-writing campaign to promote child eye health and school eye health programs as levers for game-changing transformations of education policy and practice in the medium and longer-term. The letter, meant to target key national policy influencers, including ministers of health and education and national UN agency offices, links vision to SDG4, calls for the inclusion of vision within national consultations and provides language for member states’ commitments.
Child eye health and the role of school eye health programmes fall under Thematic Action Track 1: Inclusive, Equitable, Safe and Healthy Schools. Each Action Track is tasked with identifying ‘Good Practices’ and innovations that have led to or have promising results. A discussion paper will be developed that synthesizes the research and provides recommendations on the key issues for discussion with member states and education partners.
Submit a school eye health ‘Good Practice’ under Thematic Action Track 1 to help elevate and prioritize the role of vision in education and make it a key issue for discussion. The more examples of good practices that are provided, the greater attention child eye health and school-based programmes will receive. Notable ‘Good Practices’ should be replicable, scalable and sustainable.
The UN Secretary-General’s Transforming Education Summit (TES) in September 2022 will play an integral role in galvanizing national and international commitments towards meaningful action on SDG4 and strengthen implementation of existing multilateral agreements – particularly the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
We urge you to prioritise child eye health and school-based health programmes across all your TES preparatory workstreams and to make a commitment to action within Thematic Action Track 1: Inclusive, Equitable, Safe and Healthy Schools.
The UN Resolution A/RES/75/310 entitled – Vision for Everyone; accelerating action to achieve the sustainable development goals makes clear that that access to eye care is essential to achieving SDG 4 and has a positive impact on school enrolment, educational attainment, learning and the achievement of inclusive education systems.
80% of what young children learn is processed through their sight. Therefore, if you struggle to see, you struggle to learn. Children with unaddressed vision impairments have poorer educational outcomes, are up to five times less likely to be in formal education, and risk future earning potential and well-being. 55 percent of people with avoidable vision loss are women and girls, creating a preventable source of inequity that acts as yet another barrier to education.
Studies show that children are experiencing worsening vision at a faster-than-expected rate, with 50% of the world’s population expected to be myopic by 2050. Uncorrected refractive error (including myopia) is the leading cause of vision impairment in children, but it is 100% correctable with glasses. Simple solutions exists and the time for action is now.
The WHO and the World Bank recommend prioritizing the implementation of school eye health programs, including screenings for eye and vision problems to ensure critical early diagnosis, treatment and prevention, to ensure inclusive education systems and improve education outcomes. School eye health programmes are highly cost-effective to administer, and their benefits can be large – with potentially more than 700 million children throughout the world gaining access to crucial services. Providing eyeglasses to those who need them can reduce the odds of failing a class by 44%.
In support of national efforts to implement the UN resolution on vision and in order to reimagine education systems for the world of today and tomorrow, revitalize national and global efforts to achieve SDG-4, and acknowledge the impact and rapid growth of vision impairment amongst children, we are calling on member states to make the following commitment at the 2022 TES:
Commit to addressing the inequity around access to education and health services by providing sight tests, affordable glasses, and other treatments for all children by 2030, guaranteeing increased school attendance, educational attainment and enabling long term social and economic opportunity by delivering clear vision.