Kiwi comic artist and illustrator Toby Morris demonstrated how cartoons can be used to promote social messages at the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO’s launch of a significant global report on Wednesday 20 September.
The New Zealand launch of UNESCO’s inaugural Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report Education for people and planet: Creating sustainable futures for all featured four guest speakers: prominent educationalist Dame Karen Sewell, Toby Morris, the National Commission’s new Education Commissioner Cheryl Stephens and Youth Reference Group member Raven Maeder, with Chair Ian McKinnon as Master of Ceremonies.
The GEM Report is the first in a 15-year series that monitors global progress towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 4 – Education, which UNESCO is leading.
“The aim of SDG4 is to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all,” says Ian McKinnon, Chair of the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO.
“We need to see education as more than transferral of knowledge – it’s about empowering citizens of all ages to think critically and find innovative solutions to today’s global issues.”
Toby Morris, creator of the monthly comic series Pencilsword and half of the Toby and Toby duo responsible for the series 'That is the question' on Radio NZ, was commissioned by UNESCO to illustrate the youth version of the GEM Report. He collaborated closely via Skype and email with a representative at UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris to capture the essence of the more than 400-page report in just seven pages.
“Basically what I try to do is boil an issue down to its purest form and present it in a way that’s clear and approachable and engaging,” Toby said in his speech.
“I was really excited to see an organisation like UNESCO thinking about using comics to reach a broader, younger audience, because that’s what I try and do too.
“At the core of this report is a really clear, strong message. At a time of vast change – political change, social change, technological change, environmental change – I think if we remember to keep education at the core of what we do, particularly education that focuses on sustainability and fairness, that will set the path for a future that’s sustainable, prosperous, fair and safe.”
Dame Karen noted that while New Zealand’s education curriculum is open and enabling, the next focus needs to be on enhancing the quality of participation.
“It gives us the freedom now to engage with the kinds of education that will contribute to the Sustainable Development Agenda,” she said. “The things we need to do now are to focus on global citizenship and sustainability.
“What our world will look like when we get to the 15th of these reports will depend to a significant extent on our ability to adopt and adapt and to face the ethical, political, cultural, social and economic challenges of this era.
“Today’s technologies do have the power to change our lives but we in our humanity must have the power and the responsibility to use those technologies in ways that will sustain and protect our world and those who live in it.”
You can download the GEM Report from the UNESCO website.