This past year has been difficult.
When COVID-19 was but a whisper, in January 2020, I concluded the International Summit on Balanced and Inclusive Education, at which the OEC was born, with this quote from Camus:
My message to our Founding States and Associates at the time was that our mission, today, was twice as complex, multiple times as urgent: to unmake the systems which had led the world to the brink of unmaking itself and, in the process, remake it. Little did we know that within the span of weeks, that would become months, through frustrations, loss and pain, we would collectively see our world come undone.
And as 2020 comes to an end, we know – even if we dare not say so – that 2021 still holds adversity ahead.
Personally, I have no hope for 2021. What I do have is unwavering trust in the ability of women and men, when deciding to take on the challenge of acting as one, to overcome this adversity that awaits us. I also have zealous faith in our collective capacity to emerge from this Annus Horribilis with the resolve of forging 2021 into an Annus Mirabilis.
For if the world has indeed unmade itself, and we are, in any event, to engage in unprecedented re-construction, we can and we must - rather than re-build the world that we have lost, a world that has too often disappointed us, a world that was too stubborn in its injustice and inequality – build a better world, more humane, just, and sustainable.
And the foundational stone of this new world can only be education. But not any kind of education, since education is never socially-neutral: it either suppresses or emancipates. We need an education that recognises our cultures, identities, and experiences – who we are as peoples and individuals; an education that prepares us for the complexity of the world – not one that, seeking to simplify it, ends up simplifying us as collateral damage; an education that returns to both educators and learners their humanistic vocation – not one that dehumanises the former into obsolete information-sharing instruments and the latter into mere tabulae rasae; an education that adapts to our planetary aspirations, national priorities, local realities, and individual needs – not one that alienates us by indiscriminately imposing a one-size-fits-all model. In short, the foundational stone of this new world ought to be a balanced and inclusive education. Its pillars ought to be equitable cooperation, amongst equals, and international, humanistic solidarity. And at its hearth, we must enshrine a renewed, vibrant social contract.
With this profound trust in each one of us, and this fervent faith in our common humanity, I cannot merely wish you, in good conscience, a Happy New Year. It is the deep satisfaction of fulfilling our historic, collective duty that I wish to every one of us.
The journey will undoubtedly be long, and arduous will be the road. Yet your Organisation of Educational Cooperation is steadfast in its determination to be an instrument for us to rise above the good enough that we have been expected to accept.
For we “have been bent and broken, but – [we] hope – into a better shape.”
Manssour BIN MUSSALLAM