On 26-28 June 2018, the National Coordinators of the UNESCO Associated Schools Network embarked in a new dynamic area of future collaboration. Over 50 ASPnet national coordinators from Sub- Saharan countries, newly nominated Coordinators along with representatives of African countries interested to join ASPnet.

With funding from the Hainan Provincial Government, People's Republic of China, UNESCO Associated Schools Network organized a Regional Capacity Development Workshop for National Coordinators in Sub-Saharan Africa in Windhoek, Namibia, in collaboration with The Namibian National Commission for UNESCO and UNESCO Windhoek Office..

Putting Africa first

The workshop designed to strengthen the capacity of ASPnet National Coordinators to support their schools in strategically developing educational projects positioned within UNESCO's global priority to contribute to the implementation of SDG4, particularly target 4.7 and the Education 2030. Africa is a core priority for UNESCO and organizing such event in Namibia is significant to the strengthening of UNESCO Associated Schools in Africa and providing its members with the tools and knowledge needed to boost their multidimensional potentials to drive educational innovation for global citizenship, sustainable development and intercultural learning.

From commitment to aspirations

In her opening remarks, the Deputy Permanent Secretary of Namibia's Ministry of Education Arts and Culture and Deputy Chairperson of the Namibian National Commission for UNESCO, Ms Veno Kauaria, acknowledged the challenges educators in sub-Saharan Africa face.  Nevertheless, she also underlined their commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and that Target 4.7 resonates with aspirations to play a part in global peace building. 

Ms Soo-Hyang Choi, Director of the Division for Peace and Sustainable Development at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, pedagogically made a presentation on the SDGs with a focus on target 4.7, its challenges and the monitored progress. She also pointed out the prominence of ASPnet as a way forward to UNESCO's direction and a crucial vehicle for the implementation of Target 4.7. In addition, ASPnet can make an important contribution in guiding policy and programme development, as well as teacher training, for innovative teaching and learning.

Aligning SDG 4, Target 4.7 – the Role of National Coordinators

One of the main objectives of the meeting is the comprehensive presentation with the general framework of the New Guide for National Coordinators, published in May 2018 with clearly defined missions and objectives of ASPnet and the set of rules and regulations to follow. In this context, Sabine Detzel, International ASPnet Coordinator outlined the crucial role of the National Coordinators as key responsible and managers at the national level whose efficient involvement can substantially enhance the potential of ASPnet to drive educational innovation. Moreover, it was important to align the ASPnet action areas to SDGs and SDG 4, mainly: Global Citizenship – culture of peace – non-violence, Sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, Intercultural learning – appreciation of cultural diversity and heritage.

​From outreach to collaboration

​The workshop was also a training space the National Coordinators to acquire the know-how in using the Online Tool for ASPnet (OTA) and get a deeper knowledge of its functioning with practical hands-on tutorial. The tool aims to facilitate the communication between ASPnet actors worldwide and to support them in connect with each other. The training sessions were also an opportunity to engage the members in streamlining and improving the overall management of their schools and enable them to exchange experiences and learn about existing cross-border initiatives and best practices.

Schools in action

During the workshop, the participants had the opportunity to visit two ASPnet schools in Windhoek and namely: David Bezuidenhout Secondary School and Waldorf Primary and Secondary School. The school visits allowed a closer insight on all aspects of an ASPnet schools' life. The participants got the chance to observe classes, activities and facilities in and outside the schools settings. Extensive exchanges with students and teachers as well as schools' staff allowed the participants to discover how the schools are involved in putting UNESCO's values and priorities in practice and how the whole school is connected locally, regionally and globally with other members.

Way forward

This first workshop in Africa is a stream to a great mobilization to emphasize the importance of the role that the UNESCO Associated Schools Network play to reinforce concrete advocacy and contribution to the implementation of the SDGs and SDG4 in particular through Education for Sustainable Development, Global Citizenship Education and Cultural Diversity and Heritage, with gender equality cutting across.