3 December, 2020

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WUS Vienna Conference On Universal Human Right To Quality Education For All  

By Laksiri Fernando –

Dr. Laksiri Fernando

World University Service (WUS) is celebrating its centennial in May 2020 in Vienna, organized by WUS Austria, WUS Germany, WUS Canada and WUS Alumni. The central theme of the conference is ‘Human Right to Quality Education for All’ also reflecting on WUS history, and the experiences of Alumni among other related matters. The importance of the theme is not limited to WUS community or committees, but to people at large in all countries from school teachers to university academics, from all students to education administrators, and from educational planners to civil society activists. 

Importance of the Conference 

The theme of the conference also related to and based on the UN declared Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, and more particularly on SDG4 on the Right to Quality Education with the objective of achieving it by 2030. But even after five years, many of the interim targets are not achieved by countries or lagging behind. The concepts, the purposes and objectives are also not properly understood or explained, and most importantly the mechanisms and necessary resources are not identified or utilized. Only ten years are left for the final targeted year. 

Thus is the importance of the conference to possibly accelerate the process by motivating the policy planners and policy makers both at the international and national levels, and educate the people and particularly the children and youth on their universal human right to quality education. The conference is also a determination on the part of WUS community, committees and Alumni to make their own contributions to enhance the human right to quality education through projects, scholarships, activities and advocacy. In this respect, WUS aspires and intends to work with other international and national civil society organizations and call for all countries, the UN and donor organizations to support these efforts in the coming future. 

The World University Service has always been a voluntary organization of academics, students and university administrators with the commitment to serve the society and people, particularly the poor, the vulnerable and the discriminated, while defending academic freedom and autonomy of universities and other higher educational institutions. WUS has always appreciated the contributions and funding from members, committees and donor agencies to undertake projects, activities, scholarships and advocacy. WUS is open to other likeminded civil society activists, and has always been working in cooperation with organizations with the objectives of justice, peace, reconciliation, anti-discrimination, solidarity, cooperation and human rights.    

Some Lessons from History           

Initiated by a group of academics and social workers led by Ruth Rouse in 1920 affiliated with the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF), aftermath of the First World War, the initial organization was named as the European Student Relief (ESR). In 1925, it was renamed as the International Student Relief (ISR) to reflect the international scope of its activities, and it is the same organization which become reorganized as the World University Service in 1950. By this time, the organization wanted to highlight the role of the university and academic communities (teachers, students and administrators) in society and particularly progressive social change. Since then WUS has pursued a strong advocacy role, as it is doing today, in respect of human rights, academic freedom and quality education and many other relevant social issues.   

Further going back to the origins, the reason for the new organization in 1920 was not only to address the pressing humanitarian needs of students affected by the war in food, clothing, books, housing, health etc. but also to address them and assist the students irrespective of their religion or non-religion (Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Atheist), ideological affiliations (communists, liberals, anti-communists), country of origin or ethnicity/race. However, there was a particular attention to disadvantaged or discriminated sections of the society like women and the poor. In this sense, ESR or WUS was the first human rights organization in the world in a practical sense. 

Those students who were assisted by ESR, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe, not neglecting Asia Minor, were virtually refugees. It is ironic that WUS celebrating its centennial today at a time where there is a similar or a larger refugee crisis in Europe and other parts of the world. Therefore more action is called for on those lines and other related matters such as conflict resolution, peace and international cooperation.     

Resurrecting WUS International 

This article is only an introduction to the Conference Platform published by the organizers, explaining the conference theme and its rationale, the draft agenda, and giving contact details and other information, which is copied at the end of this article. As any other organisation, WUS has been going through very many trials and tribulations, ups and downs and controversial periods. However it has always survived, fought back and became resurrected. Last two decades have not been quite promising particularly to WUS International while some national committees have survived and even thrived as can be seen from the organizing committees. 

There was a time when there were over 50 active national committees throughout the world. However, some of them are now defunct, inactive or functioning with difficulties particularly in Asia, Africa and Latin America. There are however many thousands living today who have benefitted from WUS assistance directly or indirectly for their education, employment, traning, survival and migration to safe countries. There is a duty on their part as Alumni to comeforward and contact the organizers of the conference and keep in touch, if they are not in a position to participate at the event. Most importantly, their financial contributions are equally appreciated.  

WUS has always been in touch with and acted in cooperation with student unions and academic associations in different countries. These unions and associations also can benefit through such links and cooperation. Here is an important story for that objective. 

It is known history that the forerunner of WUS, the European Student Relief was formerly established on 7 August 1920 at St. Beatenberg, Siwtzerland. Thereafter, it continued to function from Geneva. However less formal beginning started in Vienna, Austria, initiated by student unions and student activists, drwing the attention of WSCF office in London on their plight as a result of the war and then famine. For  example, in December 1919, Herbert Petrick, a student leader/activist wrote to Ruth Rouse urging her to visit Vienna and see the famine and kindly address the situation. Herbert was angry about some of the other WSCF leaders, placing the confidence in a woman leader, Ruth Rouse. This story is thanks to Benjamin Hartley at the Goerge Fox University, Oregan who has done new research on ESR.               

The reason to relate this story is not only to highlight the importance of having the 100 year celebrations in Vienna, but also to empahsise that student leaders in needy countries could and should write to the orgnizers of the Vienna conference or/and WUS and seek affiliation and cooperation. Most important is to form their WUS committess and organizations in their own countries. 

Conference Platform

 

Within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 – the right to quality education – the conference focuses on global challenges learners, educators and educational institutions, but also countries, economies and governments are facing when it comes to shrinking civic spaces in education, access to education for refugees, migrants and girls as well as access to inclusive and quality education for sustainable development (ESD) and global citizenship. The conference will address key areas such as innovation and quality assurance to achieve excellence, human rights and learning impact in situations of forced migration or how to maintain civic space in education, because we believe that they are necessary in making educational services work for all. Particular emphasis is given to youth perspectives and connecting those with the experience of senior educators and experts.

To this end, the event brings together experts and participants from different sectors and groups: educators and education designers, policy makers, experts from international agencies and civil society activists, persons from businesses, students from different backgrounds, and many more. We listen to what motivates and what worries the various stakeholders, respecting the different perspectives, and bringing actors together in transforming education in order to better equip persons to use education for their personal development and for society in general. 

With the Vienna Declaration we will outline a framework as well as quality standards and criteria in order to set an ambitious agenda that will help us to turn these commitments into action.

As we near the five-year mark of the SDGs, there is a need for the global community to take stock on our progress toward SDG 4, identify current gaps and opportunities, and discuss the roles and responsibilities that we all share in ensuring that all children and youth can enjoy their right to a quality education. 

In this context, World University Service (WUS), together with the University of Vienna and the Austrian Ministry of Education, Science and Research as well as the Central European University (CEU) in Vienna will host a global conference on SDG4 and the Right to Quality Education: An Agenda for Action in Vienna, Austria in May 2020, focusing on global challenges of quality education in the context of vulnerable groups like refugees, academic freedom and education for sustainable development.

We will explore the roles of public and private actors, and emerging technologies and educational methodolo­gies that together expand access and achieve better learning op­portunities and outcomes for all – particularly for disadvantaged persons, displaced, poorly served and otherwise marginalised communities like girls education and refugee education, contributing also to the UNESCO World Conference on ESD in Berlin.

Who you will meet

Get together with representatives from international and national organisations as well as individuals working in the field of education from United Nations, Council of Europe, EU, governmental organisations, educational institutions, NGOs, and from the business sector. We want to especially provide opportunities for young people to come and join the conference!

Contact Details of the Organising Teams

WUS Austria | www.wus-austria.org

Wolfgang Benedek (wolfgang.benedek@uni-graz.at)

Maria Rottensteiner (maria.rottensteiner@wus-austria.at)

Veronika Nitsche (veronika.nitsche@wus-austria.org)

WUS Canada | www.wusc.ca

Stephanie Leclair (sleclair@wusc.ca)

WUS Germany | www.wusgermany.de

Dr. Kambiz Ghawami (ghawami@wusgermany.de)

Dr. Bettina Schmidt (dr.bettina.schmidt@t-online.de)

WUS Alumni

Cyril Ritchie (critchie485@gmail.com)

Roger Roy (roger_roy@shaw.ca)

Partners: University of Vienna, Central European University (CEU), Austrian Ministry of Education, Science and Research

 

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Latest comments

  • 2
    2

    We have two PhDs – honorary – proposed by the author – and one is President & the other Prime Minister.
    Will he tell them about this WUS.
    As long as there is political influence in education, we will never produce first class universities.
    Members of UGC and VCs should be elected by the university fraternity.
    There should be no political influence in university appointments and on duties & privileges of university teachers.
    University of Ceylon was a model. Then, political influence ruined its successors.

    • 2
      0

      Justice,
      .
      you are spot on.
      :
      This author is control by Rajakashe clan.
      :
      I know this guy very well the manner how he licked the balls of Rajakapskeh during that 52-day FAKE govt that brought to srilanka all the INSULT.. my friends and colleagues from EUrope and across the world kept me asking why on earth srilanken dont behave at least in their own parliament. If they cant behave their well, how can they ever expect youths to behave well. Parliaments are state institutions to be seen as example, setting examples for th enation….. that govt under Rajakshes DESTROYED us globally. Some tourists questioned me, if they are so uncivlized, how can they travel to lanka ?
      But saddest reality is the very same culprits and criminals became leaders by today.
      How come ?
      Are we standing on our heads ?
      This is the ground reality of a nation who think worth to be compared to some other developed folks on this planet.
      My foot – we are marching backwards.

    • 1
      0

      Dont worry, it is the level of lanken professors. They fit with lanken style – no matter their academic titles be damaged. Main thing so long their perks or other previledges are safeguarded, these men with Prof titles would do anything and everything.
      .
      :
      I will add you few more if you want me

      1) Rajiwa Wijesinghe -with his Prof Title did the same
      2) GLP – even if he looks as if he is penisless, not having a backbone, but in the promoting mode of criminals letting srilanka an another Angola

      3) Prof. Paranawithana – he is still in parliament enjoying their PERKS… these men are like BLUE FLIES being found on road side dog excrements.

      4)

    • 0
      0

      It is quite unfortunate that ‘Justice’ begins his/her comments with nitpicking on some old questions which were explained before in these columns. That kind of nitpicking amounts to personal attacks irrelevant to the topic under discussion although he/she may have some valid views on academic freedom or autonomy. The purpose may be to provoke some others to follow suit or he/she is completely politically partisan and bias although with some valid views. Then a person named Leelagemalli follow suit and brings more falsehood claiming he knows me well. He is under a pseudonym. I don’t have any objection for people to use pseudonyms for security or privacy reasons. However, this disguise should not be used for personal attacks to me or to any other. It is equally unfortunate a person claiming a WUSmemebrGermany attacking me and many others claiming ‘it is the level of Sri Lankan professors.’ He may be from Germany, but cannot be from WUS. Values and objectives of WUS are different. Transparency and accountability should be there even in using the right to criticize. Otherwise it is not academic freedom or proper freedom of expression. Perhaps the lack of quality education, as discussed in the article as the theme of the conference, could be the reason for personal attacks instead of constructive criticism of the contents of the article. What a tragedy!

  • 3
    0

    If Education is Human Rights, why some schools, especially the semi-govt ones reject poor students for their social status? Take Colombo Zahira College for example. Currently managed by the same owners of Hameedias menswear. Ever since they took in charge of management of the school, they publicly reject students whose fathers three-wheeler drivers.

    • 0
      0

      That is indirect casteism of Muslims. Perhaps, they think, if these three-wheel drivers’ kids become doctors who will ride the rich kids to schools? Where are big Islam preachers?

      Why schools these days, ask for parents’ qualification to decide enrolling the kids to some of the schools? Does it mean that if the parent are not educated, kids should also not be educated? Or, does it mean that the popular schools are not for those whose parents are uneducated or poor?

      On the other hand, most of the schools where the poor kids attend to, or whose parents are not so educated: some of the teachers take their noble profession for granted knowing there won’t be any type of repercussion

  • 2
    0

    I think Dr. Laksiri Fernando, if this is an annual event, should try to bring it to Sri Lanka to make Sri Lankan Educationists aware and active on that. Even after 72 years, I here, rural colleges do not have proper teachers. There are lot of defects while 54,000 graduates are unemployed. No one talks about retraining these people to suitable employment. I t looks not only the parliament, bureaucracy too is a mess.

    • 1
      0

      JD,
      my man, have you finally woken up on the wrong end of the bed.?
      during the last few days or weeks, you have been posting cheap negative comments.
      I being a cheap low-class para de-mala is totally in the land of total confusion and if you post another one or two positive posts, I might succumb to shock and fatally take a slow train to hell.?
      =
      please for humanity’s sake continue posting cheap yukky of many a cheap racist garbage that only you and the few other klu Klux racist jokers in shit land can understand.
      cheers, R. J., the savior.

  • 2
    0

    This is another joke. I do not know why this Dr is wasting his time. Human rights?? whose rights are protected? Today, A Dog in Europe has got more right than a man in any third world country. This issue of human rights is not for any one except some class of people in the world. There is no such a thing called universality of humanity. Might is right and if you are powerful, strong and rich you can protected your rights.

  • 1
    0

    Dear Dr. Laksiri Fernando,
    .
    We used to have the WUS canteen in the University of Peradeniya.
    .
    Thanks for giving me the history of WUS.
    .
    I noted this with interest: some sort of involvement by the “George Fox University, Oregan”. I read up a bit about the University – not about George Fox. There’s plenty about him in my head. I’ve attended dozens of Quaker meetings.
    .
    While you were away, Laksiri, there were plenty of things happening in my old schools:
    .
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/problem-solving-in-the-north-requires-more-attention/
    .
    If that is how it is in one of the most prestigious groups of private (fee-levying) schools, what can we expect from the purely State-run Schools?

  • 0
    0

    Dear desperateasnoother”, Leelagemalli, and Adrian,
    .
    Following on from the comments on Jehan Perera’s article, this is how this affair relating to the schools is going:
    .
    I called the Kollupitiya school office at 10.17 am on Friday, the 7th and was told that “everybody” had gone across for sports practices to the “grounds” – those turned out to be some school grounds as far away as Ratmalana (no, not Mt Lavinia). I was advised by the friendly secretary to call the Headmaster after 2.00 pm.
    .
    At 2.00 pm, I found myself at Diyatalawa to hand over a pair of shoes to my cobbler, Evans, whom I have referred to here:
    .
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/two-categories-of-presidential-candidates/
    .
    I asked him whether there was any quiet place from which I could phone. He couldn’tm so I biked it to the Divisional Education Office, one of my old haunts, and called Rev. Dushantha from there. what a refreshing difference that was. He recognised me as a candidate, and said that there was no need to for me to meet him personally. I could leave my manifesto with the Secretary, and they could be given to all interested staff. What a relief to be talking to a person one can trust!
    .
    However, I can’t leave for Colombo just now. The Headmaster had been asked to call over at the Police Station, on Thursday, but he hadn’t come, sending the secutity man again. So, now I have to make another trip to the Police Station on Tuesday, the 11th, to discuss with Christopher how the elections ought to be conducted.
    .
    I know that this is not interesting writing but it is important that I keep you informed .

  • 0
    0

    Dear Adrian,
    .
    Things are going so well that what I have now got to be careful of is not overpaying my hand.
    .
    Balraj did not turn up at 10.00. He has now got to turn up at 5.00 pm.
    .
    No voting at Mt Lavinia this time. Only two nominees for two Representatives. So, I’m free to go to Gurutalawa for their AGM.
    .
    Will explain later. This is from my mobile phone.

    • 0
      0

      Form the Bandarawela Police Station:
      .
      And my mobile phone, obviously. I shall say more later. I think it all went well.
      .
      Can readers believe this. Balraj actually stated that I was rousing racial hatred.
      .
      Me, Sinala_Man, aka Panini Edirisinhe NIC 48 3111 444V

  • 0
    0

    Dear Adrian,
    .
    I had very much the better of the Bandarawela Headmaster, Balraj, yesterday. Tomorrow, I’m going to Gurutalawa to stay two nights. It’s the OBA weekend there. I don’t trust that Headmaster, either. The Colpetty man alone seems honest. I’ve got to visit his school with 100 copies of my “manifesto”. I’ve been asked to leave them with his Secretary.

    .
    Surveying what is available, I think that I will submit further updates as responses here.
    .
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/expanding-university-education-argument-for-an-asian-model-to-promote-eastern-knowledge/
    .
    This is already a major issue, and the CT moderators have been very kind to me; I think that they know that this will soon become a major talking point.
    .
    Panini aka Sinhala_Man
    .

    • 0
      0

      Many strange things have been happening! Not everything is understood by me as yet.
      .
      One comment by me has already appeared below this article:
      .
      https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/expanding-university-education-argument-for-an-asian-model-to-promote-eastern-knowledge/
      .
      I’m sure that it would be best for me to place subsequent comments at the bottom of the pile – which is unlikely to be added to much further. That article is a very good one. The fact that such articles attract few comments, while Imtiaz Bakeer Markar languishes with few having thought of him as a possible President in November 2019.
      .
      This is the real problem with Sri Lanka. Our thinking is still stuck in Medieval Times. We talk about becoming a meritocracy, but it is feudalist and casteist thinking that still prevails. We’ve got to change all this.
      .
      .
      Panini Edirisinhe (NIC 48 3111 444v) aka “Sinhala_Man”
      .

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