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Global Schools Hosts ECOSOC Youth Forum Side Event

Written by Abigail Chifusa, Global Schools Project Officer

At the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum 2024, which took place on April 16, the Global Schools Program (GSP) hosted a side event under the theme "Youth for Sustainability: Cultivating leaders through education, innovations, and partnerships," which highlighted the important role education plays in developing future leaders dedicated to achieving sustainable development.

The event’s purpose was to gather information on sustainable development activities taking place in different communities and was guided and led by Amanda Abrom, GSP Director. It also brought attention to the growing need for educational reform in order to give students the skills they need to confront climate change issues and prepare for what lies ahead. 

Before the student presenters took the virtual stage, the president of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), Professor Jeffrey Sachs, discussed his ideas for preparing the next generation of leaders to achieve sustainable development and the educational programmes that should be in place to help them. He shared his enthusiasm and excitement for the students’ contributions at the ECOSOC Youth Forum. In addition, he stressed the importance of the event as a forum for international cooperation and expressed gratitude to the teachers and students involved. He urged students to engage with their teachers, school leaders, and policymakers to drive positive change. Lastly, Professor Sachs commended the efforts of the GSP in empowering young people and expressed optimism for a sustainable future.

Moving forward, the first student presenter at the event was Aaryan Jain from the US.  Aaryan discussed integrating SDG 15 (Life on Land) into K12 education. He emphasized the importance of conserving terrestrial biodiversity and engaging young people in this effort. Arianne shared his personal journey of discovering biodiversity, starting from his childhood visits to national parks. He stressed the importance of teaching environmental knowledge and fostering enthusiasm for nature from an early age, and his recommendations focused on developing a basic curriculum for students from kindergarten to elementary school.  Arianne suggested creating schoolyard native gardens or pollinator meadows to enhance students’ connection with nature. In the middle school stage, Arianne recommended teaching skills related to integrating biodiversity into human spaces, tailored to the specific environment where students grow up. Finally, he proposed offering electives and science courses in middle to high school that teach the benefits of native ecosystems and sustainable agriculture, linking theory with practical application.

The next student presenter was Bui Gia Khanh Pham from Vietnam and her project titled, Chalk Road. Gia, a 16-year-old, is passionate about equality in education. Gia has served as a UN General Assembly (UNGA) delegate and held leadership positions at her school. During the presentation, Gia highlighted that Chalk Road's workshops cover a wide range of topics, from dance to cybersecurity to arts and career orientation. The goal is to nurture lifelong values that students can carry into the future, such as self-esteem and resilience. For example, dance workshops help students connect with their bodies, embracing their flaws and strengths. One of Chalk Road’s plans involves inviting teachers to join their network, providing access to various resources. This sustainable approach ensures ongoing quality education as teachers gain knowledge about the SDGs and continue to teach them in their hometowns.

Another student, Auston Yang from China, focused his presentation on developing better Public and Private Partnerships (PPP) for green and sustainable development.  First, Auston stressed the need for increased collaboration between public and private sectors, citing the benefits of Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) in enhancing the quality and efficiency of public services and highlighting the importance of partnerships in addressing global crises. Citing a UN report, Auston highlighted the urgency of closing the funding gap to achieve the SDGs and the importance of investing in infrastructure, medical technologies, and teaching methodologies to accelerate progress. His initiative, PLANunity, emphasizes the potential of collaborative efforts between diverse stakeholders to address complex challenges. Introducing PLANunity, Auston explained how the initiative aims to engage youth from various countries in designing viable PPPs. He noted the beneficial structure developed by PLANunity to guide youth engagement. He encouraged active participation in this effort and voiced hope about PLANunity’s goal of involving youth in the design of workable PPPs by the end of 2024.

The next student presenters were a group from FMV Ispartakule Işık High School in Turkey. Their project, known as the She Shelter Foundation, was presented by a team including Duru Ozturk, Naz Urhan, Zeynep Helva, and Zehra Garip. These students, all in the 11th grade and enrolled in the IB Diploma Program, developed a project aimed at addressing SDG 1: No poverty, SDG 3: Good health and wellbeing, SDG 4: Quality Education, SDG 5: Gender equality, and SDG 10: Reduced inequalities. Their focus is on creating a supportive community for homeless individuals, particularly homeless women, in their local area. The initiative includes workshops designed to assist and empower these women in their journey to regain independence. Additionally, they recently organized an SDG fair at their school to promote awareness and engagement within the community and among their peers. 

The next student presenter was 14-year-old Panegyrique Tsisiga from Kenya. Panegyrique is a climate action ambassador and served as a panelist at the Africa Climate Summit on behalf of her school community. Her project focuses on maintaining low carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. She specifically aims to develop equipment that can detect excess carbon dioxide, store it, and sell it as carbon credits. Panegyrique encourages her fellow young people, especially within their school communities, to consider ways to address this issue, including within their own households.

The final group of students were from Shining Star International School in the UAE. Their project focuses on empowering women through mindfulness and well-being. The theme of their work centers on promoting SDG 3: Good health and wellbeing and SDG 4: Quality education, highlighting mindfulness and compassion. The students believe that every woman and girl deserves an opportunity to thrive. Additionally, they shared their experiences engaging with the UN and the discussions they’ve had with leaders. They also discussed what it means to be young people engaging with the UN and how they’ve successfully brought these experiences back to their local community to empower women. The students presenters and those involved in the work are: Izza Sajjad, Fathima Nahida, Azaheer Mohammed, Vaishnavi Naidu, Hamda Nazeer,

And Fahad Sajjad.

Furthermore, Hafiz Jawad Sohail, GSP Project Officer for partnerships and events, encouraged participants to stay engaged with the Global Schools Program. In conclusion, Amanda announced the opening of applications for the Global Schools Advocates Program at the end of the session. GSP welcomes all educators, school leaders, administrators, and faculty at the pre-primary, primary, and secondary levels to apply to become official Global Schools Advocates. 

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