JALANDHAR — On 24 January this year, UN observed its very first International Day for Education.
The event was held at the United Nations Headquarter and was sponsored and hosted by the Mission of Nigeria to the UN and co-sponsored by the Permanent Missions of Ireland, Singapore, Qatar, Norway and UNESCO.
The proposal was conceptualised and mooted by Christo Thomas, the founder chairman of Collegiate Congress, a student advocacy organisation which is a consortium of elected student leaders of universities and colleges in New York.
Born in Kerala, Thomas is the son of Kerala lawyer-politician KJ Thomas. He studied at Kendriya Vidyalaya in Kannur’s Keltron Nagar and has a bachelor’s degree in political science and is pursuing his second masters in International Affairs.
The Collegiate Congress is an NGO associated with the United Nations Department of Public Information designed and proposed the resolution for the day. It was then moved at the UN by the Nigerian mission and co-sponsored by 58 member states.
“It would have been great if India, known for its ancient scholars and scientists, had sponsored my resolution. Though I had discussions with the UN Missions of India and US, it was Nigeria who finally advocated the cause to celebrate the role of education for peace and development,” said Thomas while speaking with HuffPost India over the phone from New York.
The idea of observing an International day for Education came to Thomas while working on the first academic programme for United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), the principal body of the UN that provides training to diplomats.
“While UN observes many international days, it did not have any assigned day for education, even though the UN Declaration of Human Rights clearly mentions Right to Education and quality education is the fourth Sustainable Development Goal. So we as a UN affiliate organisation proposed the day,” said Thomas.
He drafted the resolution with the help of senior UN Diplomats including Narinder Kakar, a permanent observer who had also served with the UN Development Programme for decades,Yuriy Sergeyev, former Ukrainian ambassador, Frederick Bijou, former diplomat of Costa Rica and other member state representatives. The draft was then sent to over 40 countries, including India and US.
While India liked the resolution it was too busy to sponsor it at the UN. “I reached out to India during the UN General Assembly session, which is the peak time for every member states, especially missions such as India who handle many issues in the UN. However, I am happy to see that they did co-sponsor it,” Thomas said.
24 January was chosen as the day for the particular significance it held for the UN for its role in peace and development. “In 1946, UN had adopted its very first resolution on the establishment of a commission to deal with the problem raised by the discovery of atomic energy,” said Thomas.
On December 3 last year, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted the resolution proclaiming January 24 as the International Day of Education.
Thomas said that adoption of the resolution by UN has “demonstrated the unwavering political will to support transformative actions for inclusive, equitable and quality education for all”.
A day before on January 23 this year, New York became the first state in the world to adopt the resolution to acknowledge the UN International Day of Education. The resolution was presented in the New York State Assembly by Assembly woman Jamie Williams.
What next? “We have already started a global campaign for our new initiative befitting the importance of education, focused on two interrelated goals which includes the global implementation of the International day of Education and promoting and supporting the UN Sustainable development Goals. This is a global initiative which will be unveiled mid this year,” said Thomas.