Ahmed Ben Tahar Galai : Taking a stand for refugees and human rights

Ahmed Ben Tahar Galai : Taking a stand for refugees and human rights

Ahmed Ben Tahar Galai : Taking a stand for refugees and human rights


“Hay Festival: Imagine the world.” Hard to do so when Aylan Kurdi’s body stands on the 1st slide of Ahmed Ben Tahar Galai’s presentation. We all know that horrible picture that went viral showing the body of this poor little Kurdish boy lying on the Turkish beach.

Ahmed Ben Tahar, vice-president of the League of Human Rights in Tunisia that received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015 has made his point: What is happening in Europe is NOT acceptable. People are fleeing from their countries and many of them are risking their lives such as Aylan Kurdi who didn’t make it alive. He was just 3 years old. Europe cried the death of that boy. How about the lives of others? There are hundreds of thousands of migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea. Ten thousand of them dead. Imagine a whole city disappearing. That’s what it is. So, yes Europe cried, the whole world cried looking at these pictures and then what?

As Ahmed Ben Tahar Galai said migration is a natural historical process. People leave their country to find love, to flee wars, to get a better life. Migration fluctuations have always existed and they have brought their fair deal of financial benefits to the hosting countries relieving pressure on labour markets. Migration has also been at the origins of positive fusions between cultures. The mixing of cultures has brought new knowledge and has allowed people to learn from one another.

However, this is not how we see immigration now in most countries. Immigration has to be stopped at all cost. Trump who has been recently elected President of the US has claimed to be willing to build a wall to detain migration from Mexico and to a wider extent to South America. In Europe a “shameful agreement”, as mentioned Ahmed Ben Tahar Galai, has been voted between rich European countries and Turkey so that Turkey detains the migrants on its soil.

The fact is migration cannot be stopped. Migrants would still try to cross borders, they would rather try to cross and die rather than stay in their own countries. Europe that is said to be the the cradle of Human Rights has failed its engagement. It has failed its people. It has failed its promises. Europe is crying “crocodile tears.”

Despite Ahmed Ben Tahar Galai’s presentation pessimistic overview of the way refugees and migrants are treated worldwide, his optimism in brighter days is contagious.

You cannot fight for Human Rights and be pessimistic, can you? So instead of portraying solely a bad vision of the migration crisis he offers solutions that should be brought to light :

  1. Working on the causes of migration i.e. helping the internal economy of countries in wars or developing countries.
  2. Sharing the wealth of the world and fighting poverty.
  3. Developing fair trade
  4. Reducing the debt of poor countries
  5. Helping people develop sustainable ways of living
  6. Changing priorities and incrementing the budget for health and education
  7. Helping people live in dignity
  8. Taking responsibility for our actions

There is a long way before reaching this goal but how about we start we the last one first? Taking responsibility for our actions and trying to be more human and ethical?

PISA results, International Meeting for Higher Education. What’s the next step for Peru?

PISA results, International Meeting for Higher Education. What’s the next step for Peru?

PISA results, International Meeting for Higher Education. What’s the next step for Peru?

PISA results, International Meeting for Higher Education. What’s the next step for Peru?

In the light of the PISA results from the OECD that have just come up today it is worth putting in parallel the relevant questions that were raised yesterday at the International Meeting for Higher Education (2nd Encuentro Internacional de Education Universitaria Superior) that is currently held in Arequipa, Peru.


This year Peru is ranking 64/70 (62/70 countries for reading and 63/70 for maths.) OK, not great. Can do better. Still there is some improvement in comparison to the previous years and that is what I would like to focus on in this article.


This time I was not part of the speakers but just a curious observer of the deep change that Peru is experiencing in terms of education and in terms of strategies to implement change.


The focus of the conference yesterday was about the quality of teaching and its assessment. How can we ensure that Peru delivers a high quality of teaching that would be competitive with the rest of the world? What are the challenges faced by the country and the opportunities that are offered?


Maria José Lemaitre del Campo (Directora Ejecutiva del Centro Interuniversitario de Desarollo, Chile) raised some valid questions related to the evaluation of the quality of teaching in Peru. Should education be considered a social right or a consumer good? In other words should the government take some –financial- role in education or should it be left to the private sector? Do we focus on selection or massification of the Higher Education? How do we integrate MOOCs and other technologies in education? How do we deal with globalisation with students who can’t easily get out of the country?


Peru is at a crucial point in its History in Education. Political and Education actors should work hand in hand to build (the word “contruir” was used a lot yesterday) a solid Education recognised on a national level and possibly on an international level.


However, this does not mean that Peru should blindy copy what is done in other countries. Niclas Jonsson, Consejero de Educacion y Ciencia de la Embajada de Australia con sede en Brasilia mentioned some interesting points about Australia’s Education (PISA Ranking Australia 14/70) and he also said something quite right: “The Education in Australia is good but far from being perfect. Peru should take what is good about it, leave the bad parts and ADAPT the good parts to its own context.”


Totally right. Every country should be aiming at implementing the best education system possible. However, the mistake many countries make when they want to improve on their education system is that they take ideas and concepts from other successful countries without applying the necessary critical thinking to implement these ideas.

Education takes time and THINKING.


Now here are some of the questions to open up the debate about the implementation of policies regarding the evaluation of teaching quality in Peru:


  1. If Peru is looking towards implementing a National regulator defining National Standards for Quality, who will be part of it? Foreigners having the experience of these standards but little knowledge about the Peruvian context? Peruvian teachers who know their country but have little insight of international standards? Both?
  2. The implementation of National regulators and standards have raised some concerns in some countries as they have been synonyms for more paperwork and pressure on teachers which was detrimental to the teaching-learning time. How will Peru avoid the trap of paperwork and standardisation to increment a real improvement in learning?
  3. We are at a time of globalisation and English is key. The vision of the Peruvian government is to form bilingual students by 2021. Many teachers don’t have the skills or knowledge to teach English. Will the focus be on hiring foreign teachers or training teachers here in Peru so that they can be in charge of the education of their own country?


The debate is open…

Education is starving

Education is starving

Education is starving

Why do you teach ? Me, because I am starving

When I deliver speeches I am often asked these 2 questions:

Why have you decided to teach abroad and deliver conferences?

I heard there was good food for free in that conference!

My easy answer is: I heard there was good food for free in that conference! An easy answer to deride a hungry audience. It has always worked for me.
Well, of course you don’t leave your own country whose gastronomy is well renowned just for food but as I said earlier that’s just an easy answer to a complicated question.

If I had the time to say why I am losing sleepless nights preparing work for the development of teachers, here’s what I would say.
Because I have to. Because children deserve it. Because the right to education is a fundamental right for everyone. No matter who you are, no matter how much money you have, no matter the colour of your skin, no matter your age, no matter your gender, no matter if you are an atheist or believe in God. Education is an inalienable right. The right to be given the tools to grow as a citizen of the world.

Let me tell you a personal story :          

Reading was devouring and I was thirty for learning

I have always wanted to work in education as a teacher. Very creative, right? Anyway. I was a good student but also a trouble maker because I needed food to nurture my brain. Reading was devouring and I was thirty for learning. I got lucky because some of my teachers spotted that they gave me just enough to sustain my appetite. After my Master’s degree I still wanted more. I got Learning Greedy. More.more.more. However I don’t come from a rich family nor am I poor. Just the typical middle class family where parents sacrifice everything they have to give their children a chance through education. So I worked hard and knocked on the right doors. At the time getting a Postgraduate Certificate in Education along with a Master’s degree in teaching languages was partly funded by the English state in agreement with the European institutions. I could never be grateful enough to have receive such an opportunity to develop my skills as a teacher and simply as a person learning in Oxford one of the most prestigious universities in the world. I would not be here today if I hadn’t been given this opportunity.


Unfortunately, nowadays education is a privilege. Today more than ever. I have travelled to many countries delivering speeches to prestigious institutions in Europe to talk about the great use of technology in education and the risks of technology if badly used while developing at the same time teachers’ skills in rural schools in Peru where teachers have little if no access to the Internet. Paradoxical, right?

My point here is that education is a right but it is also a duty we need to contribute to. We have to feed empty bellies and empty minds starving. Education shouldn’t suffer from compromise, Education should be a priority for each and every one of us if we want the world to turn round and if we want it to be a better place.
So, yes why do I deliver conferences abroad? Because I know what it feels like to be hungry for knowledge.

What is cyberbullying and how do we fight it

What is cyberbullying and how do we fight it

Cyberbullying: the great threat


School bullying has always existed between students but there is now a new form of bullying which is even more pernicious: Cyberbullying. Traditional bullying usually involves just a handful of participants. Cyberbullying can involve dozens, thousands and even more. Digital media have changed the society in such a way that bullying can be spread anywhere and anytime. There is absolutely no escape for the one victim of such harassment.


So what do we do? Do we withdraw from social media? Do we stop using the Internet? Do we prevent our children from using their cell phones?

That’s no solution. We live in a digital world and instead of banning all technology from our lives the answer is in the right use of technology.

Children should be taught how to use technology correctly and they should be taught values as well to understand that any action they take in their virtual lives may have an impact in their real lives.

How about the sad story of Amanda Todd? For one single mistake in her life (flashing her breasts on the Internet) she paid the high price: Her LIFE. After this terrible mistake she got cyberbullied. The harassment never stopped. Day after day. At night. Online. In real life. ALL the TIME. Her life became a nightmare. The only solution she could think of was to take her own life. And they are many cases like her. Megan Taylor Meier, Felicia Garcia, Patrick Ryan Halligan. These may be just names for you. But they were students, they were teenagers, they were children and they took their lives for similar reasons. Because they were cyberbullied.

So yes, teaching the young ones some moral values and showing them the right use of technology and showing them that they have to protect their privacy and intimacy online is absolutely vital.

What is cyberbullying

But educating children the right use of technology is not enough. Adults should be taught as well how to use the Internet safely.

Why? Because as adults when we take silly pictures of our friends on a Friday night and share them around, the message we convey our kids is that it is just ok to share silly pictures around. Sharing any material whether we are talking about videos, articles or pictures does have an impact! NOTHING can be erased for good on the Internet. Think about that teacher (Ashley Payne) who shared a photo of herself drinking a glass of wine. Innocent picture. That’s what you would think. She got fired. How about Obama’s young speechwriter John Favreau whose picture of him making fun of Hillary Clinton got viral. Fired. Posting personal pictures, sharing videos online is a big deal because it can lead to bullying. Every single personal information is saved on some server and anyone can have access to it. If you behave in a silly way as a teen and your pictures are posted on the Internet, you can be sure that those pictures will still be available to your future employees.

Prevention courses have to be delivered in schools about cyberbullying  as early as in primary school and parents must be invited to these talks. There are so many cases of cyberbullying that could have been prevented if only students, parents and teachers had known how to handle the situation. There are laws to protect victims of cyberbullying. That’s a good thing. But the best way to stop cyberbullying comes from homes and prevention.

Understanding bullying and its components

Understanding bullying and its components

Understanding Bullying


Bullying is not something new but it is a problem that we don’t always know how to handle as teachers, educators or parents.

We all know that bullying has spread over the past decades. What we tended to simply call as a “growing up process” is now treated as it should be: a harsh constant intolerable harassment. It does not matter who you are. It can hit you any time whether you’re Black, White, heterosexual, gay, with ginger hair, a girl, a boy, clever, tall, short, fat, slim, Muslim, Catholic…The list is endless. We know that.

Last year for the Bullying Month I was invited by the Embassy of the United States in Spain to deliver speeches in different schools in Madrid, Valencia and Cartagena. The idea was to raise an awareness about bullying and the point was to work on prevention rather than working on the cure. I focused on explaining what bullying was and highlighted the factors leading to it. We also discussed about the common and less usual warning signs that a child or teenager can be bullied. I insisted on the fact that communication was the key to prevention. Communication between parents, teachers and students.

Bullying must not to be dealt with as part of a difficult growing process. Bullying is a behaviour. As such it can be changed. How? By involving the three members part of the process AND their families. We CANNOT as educators fight bullying alone. Nor can parents of the victims and witness. This is a common process.

For example, how can a teenage girl explain that she had some videotaped intercourse and that it is now all over the Internet? How come this girl had never spoke about her personal struggle? The answer is simple. Talking about bullying is difficult.

That may sound unreal for some of us as adults but teenagers put themselves in dangerous situations and once it is done they don’t have a clue how to get out of them. Other children or teens are also simply victims of constant harassment because of their social, religious or family background. How can some little boy explain that he suffers because some students are constantly harassing him because of simply who he is? Bullying is cruel and everywhere.


Let’s not turn a blind eye. By understanding bullying must be addressed with parents and explained to parents before students even start school. They need to be told that it is a serious concern and as such it will be addressed not only with their children but with them as well. Let’s not forget either that in most cases of bullying the child who bullies has been deprived from a home with solid moral values. Some bullies are also themselves victims of verbal or physical abuse. The idea here is not to blame the bully or his parents the idea here is to provide help to get the necessary change in behaviour.





Understanding bullyingBullying can be prevented as long as we know that bullying does exist from Kindergarten.

As for schools the message must be clear with all the teachers and members of staff. Creating a solid code of conduct is part of the message but even better when the parents and children take an integrant part in its elaboration. Teachers should do activities in class, groups of discussions should be held with the school community, workshops should be done about the responsibilities, rights and duties of living in a community and in a society.

Understanding bullying, First step is to take it seriously. Children and teens must feel free to talk to adults without being judged or prejudiced.

Changing a behaviour takes time. It can take months and even years but it is everyone’s responsibility to address the issue. Everyone should stand against Bullying. Campaigns are a good way for awareness but the Month of Bullying is clearly not enough. The virus doesn’t spread just during one month. It’s all year long.

To sum it up, understanding bullying it’s about knowing prevention is much better than the cure in terms of bullying as the consequences of bullying have huge traumatic impact on the three main characters of the program. Postponing any action to fight the issue can have huge consequences on the short and long run. I would just add here that children and teens face the problem every day at school and through online devices but it is now up to us as adults to consider the real impact it can have on our children and students.