How to Make Schools More Effective Barriers to Extremism, Racism and Antisemitism?


 

 

 

Paris, November 13th, 2019 – The Ministers of Education from more a dozen countries in Europe, Africa and the Middle-East and educational stakeholders discussed the role of schools in the fight against extremism, racism and antisemitism during a meeting held at the Museum of Quai Branly in Paris.

The meeting was organized in cooperation with Mémorial de la Shoah, on the sidelines of the 40th General Conference of UNESCO, and was chaired by Jean-Michel Blanquer, French Minister of National Education and Youth. Jean-Pierre Raffarin, former French Prime Minister; Irina Bokovoa, former UNESCO Director-General; Edouard Matoko, Assistant Director-General of UNESCO, and several representatives from international organizations, experts and philanthropists took part in the debate that was moderated by Renaud Girard, Chief international Editor and Columnist for the French newspaper Le Figaro.

The UN General Secretary António Guterres and several Ministers of Education who could not attend the meeting sent messages of support to the organizers.

Eric de Rothschild, President of Mémorial de la Shoah and Vice-President of the Aladdin Project, opened the meeting by listing the alarmingly high number of terrorist and hate attacks in Europe, the Sahel region and Afghanistan since October. “We consider that the fight against violent extremism is closely linked to the one against racism and antisemitism. In this battle, our weapons are education and History.” He concluded his speech by quoting German philosopher Immanuel Kant “Where to place our hope? Solely in education.”

Jean-Michel Blanquer recalled education’s paramount importance in the fight against bigotry by quoting French author, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: “He who is different from me does not impoverish me - he enriches me.” He also highlighted the need to understand diversity as an asset as opposed to a problem and that only extremists are trying to pull us apart. Referring to the Aladdin Project as a promotor of peace through knowledge, the Minister insisted on the essential role of education, not only at school but everywhere in the society.

Renaud Girard opened the discussions with the Ministers with a simple question: “We all agree that, in the long run, education is the answer to this scourge of our times. But what can we do to make schools more effective in this fight?”

The Ministers and Secretaries of State for Education from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, France, Mali, Uganda, Sweden, South Sudan and Serbia along with Rachid Benmokhtar, former Minister of Education of Morocco, shared their countries’ experiences in this fight, while proposing specific measures to boost and reinforce action on both local and international levels.

Gilles Pécout, Head of the local educational authority in the Paris region; Ilana Cicurel, Education advisor for La Republique En Marche and Bariza Khiari, Vice-President of the Aladdin Project and President of the Institute for Islamic cultures, also took part in the discussions.

Leah Pisar, President of the Aladdin Project, announced the formation of a working group chaired by Rachid Benmokhtar in order to push forward the efforts initiated by this meeting and to create a toolkit on tolerance intended for primary schools. She concluded her statement by quoting the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi: “The lamps are different, but the Light is the same.”

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Left to right : Eric de Rothschild, Chair of Mémorial de la Shoah and co-Chair of the Aladdin Project; Bariza Khiari, co-Chair of the Aladdin Project ; Deng Deng Hoc Yai, Minister of General Education and Instruction, South Sudan; Rachid Benmokhtar, former Minister of Education of Morocco; Irina Bokova, former UNESCO Director-General ; John Muyingo, Minister of State for Higher Education, Uganda ; Arayik Harutyunyan, Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sport of Armenia; Jean-Michel Blanquer, Minister of National Education and Youth, France ; Ana Langovic Milicevic, Secretary of State for Education, Serbia ; Anna Ekström, Minister of Education and Research, Sweden ; Jeyhun Bayramov, Minister of Education, Azerbaijan ; Témoré Tioulenta, Minister of National Education, Mali ; Sheikh Mohamed Al Jaber, Saudi philanthropist and former UNESCO Special Envoy for Tolerance Education; Leah Pisar, Chair of the Aladdin Project.