Interview with Dr. Nasrin Fakhri, UNESCO Education Director.
By: Amirabbas Aboutalebi
Copy Editor: Hanieh Farajzadeh
Villa: Please introduce yourself to Villa audience.
Thank you. I am Nasrin Fakhri, principal of the education sector of the National Commission for UNESCO in Iran. UNESCO is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. It seeks to build peace through international cooperation in Education, the Sciences and Culture. UNESCO’s programs contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals defined in Agenda 2030, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2015.
Villa: How does UNESCO lunch its programs?
When societies across the world face the rising pressures of change and the international community faces new challenges, or any interruption occurs in the natural learning process come from natural disasters and conflicts, UNESCO will launch its programs and follow them up to everyone.
This organization has a unique role to play in strengthening the foundations of lasting peace and equitable and sustainable development. These programs define according to the quality of educational content that each child and citizen has access to, by promoting cultural heritage and the equal dignity of all cultures.
Villa: How much do you know about Villa Magazine workshops? They are trying to follow the ideas about health, culture and person-centered principles and values. We truly consider education as the main base for development.
Of course, your mindset is toward to UNESCO’s origin. UNESCO believes that, even in the most remote regions, paying attention to the education of children in order to promote the cultural, educational and health situation in all regions has a very positive and significant impact on that area’s development.
Given that our country is suffering from many natural disasters, the training group has set up a seminar with the UNESCO, UNICEF and the Ministry of Education to reduce natural hazards.
The purpose of this seminar was to have a building pathology, in the first step, then a rehabilitation program with minimal facilities in the affected areas. It should consider that at this conference, rural areas are more noticeable.
Attention must be paid not only to the child’s learning but also to the creation of safe, welcoming and healthy environments that promote children’s emotional, psychological and physical well-being.
Villa: For us, the key to sustainable development lies in community participation that will bring hope for a better life particularly in villages.
Hope and peace are the issues which induce children through quality education. If the learning environment gives children a sense of unity with its own climatic and native factors, it will affect the quality of education, and reduces stress and anxiety of them.
Villa: We truly consider educational spaces and environment as the main factor in children’s health.
One of the requirements for high-quality education is a safe and secure environment. The educational space architecture has the ability to calm down and take care of the child's mental health.
The environmental, social, and economic implications are enormous and touch many aspects of the life of the world’s population. The overall goal of the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable
Development is to integrate the principles, values, and practices of sustainable development into all aspects of education and learning. This educational effort will encourage changes in behavior that will create a more sustainable future in terms of environmental integrity, economic viability, and a just society for present and future generations.
Villa: Submission to our workshops should consider the following factors: climate condition, affordability, culture, visual comfort, adaptability, and health.
UNESCO aims to Sustainable Development to focus on the climate and the environment around children. As a path for sustainable change, education can provide a powerful response to help alleviate these challenges. Education has a direct impact on poverty reduction, gender equality, health, and environmental sustainability. A fundamental objective of education is to promote and impact values, attitudes, and behaviors that empower learners to be proactive contributors to a more just, equal, peaceful and sustainable society.
Other considerable factors should be respected; for instance, consideration as to the location of schools, travel to and from school, factors that might cause illness or accidents in the classroom or playgrounds, and appropriate facilities for girls. It also requires the proactive provision of facilities, services, and policies to promote the health and safety of children and the active participation of the local community. A healthy environment also needs to provide safe and stimulating opportunities for play and recreation.
Villa: We highly care about roots and origins in our design ideas. The integration of culture, society, and architecture.
In this regard, we are working to strengthen this issue, by inviting member states to cultural engagement and dialogue.
The principle that the best interests of the child shall be the primary consideration in all actions concerning him or her needs to be introduced into all relevant legislation, including in educational laws.
Villa: Our design approach reaches way beyond health, comfort, and energy efficiency which can be a piece of strong evidence and reference to learning.
This issue will affect the unconscious side of the children. The obligation to give primacy to the best interests of children and to ensure their optimum development requires that learning environments are welcoming, gender sensitive, healthy, safe and protective. Although situations of extreme poverty, emergency and conflict may often impede this, children should never be expected to attend schools where the environment is detrimental to their health and wellbeing. Schools should take measures to contribute to children’s health and well-being, taking into account the differing needs of children. This will necessitate measures to ensure that obstacles to health and safety are removed.
Schools are not accessible unless they have adequate educational materials. Appropriate measures need to be introduced to review the total equipment requirements. If all children are to have equal opportunities to learn, attention has to be paid to specific needs.
Villa: Do you have any architectural background effect?
The memory of the grandmother›s house is always a sweet memory of childhood. Playing in the garden and the grandmother›s dining room always gives you vitality from within, which makes fatigue clear. On the contrary, I recall the memory of the metal plates in front of the windows during high school, which instilled the feeling of being imprisoned, and the memory of the fifth grade of primary school, that was a classroom in the basement with a narrow window and a very poor optical light. The notable point is that this school still exists!
Villa: The buildings are made of natural materials, due to replying to the building design necessities. These materials are abundant in the region that will improve children’s discovery.
The mentioned subject is a proven topic. One of the methods of modern education is to physically train and involve children with experimental issues in the natural environment that the youngster has the ability to touch.
Education does not exist in a vacuum. Ensuring that every child has access to quality and respectful learning environments throughout his or her childhood necessitate action far beyond ministries of education.
Villa: We consider sustainable design strategies in workshop submissions. How much, for example, natural lighting as a sustainable design factor can effect on children’s health?
The answer is obvious. Apart from the physical and emotional health of the proper daylight, a lamp and artificial radiation can exacerbate the risk of a variety of diseases.
Every school familiar with requirements on health and safety in respect of buildings, play areas, first aid, child protection systems.
Villa: How does “ passive design strategies” affect children’s abilities to explore their living spaces?
The result of a child’s development in architectural design is indirect. Children’s view of nature has changed and they will try to apply the least cost to their surroundings and protect it. This will have a direct impact on professional life and their futurities.
Villa: Each environment could be an important source to enhance the social potential of children.
Alongside the teacher, the school building is of great importance for the development of the child's personality as it can create a passion for the child and a new experience for his learning. Moreover, the social activities of children in schools are defined and implemented. The value of this approach is very high.
Participation rights do not simply extend to the pedagogic relationships in the classroom but also across the school and in the development of legislation and policy. The Committee on the Rights of the Child has frequently recommended that governments take steps to encourage greater participation by children in schools.
Children can also play an important role in advocating for the realization of their rights. Governments need to introduce legislation and policy to establish and support these rights at all levels in the education system.
Villa: Another factor is the importance of “Architecture and Water” or “Water Architecture”.
Your water plan revives ancient traditions. Ancient University of Gandhi Shapur (Jundishapur) was active in the medical field 1700 years ago and was considered as the world’s medical pole because it focused on the medical science of the East and the West. One of the fields, which was taught in an ancient university, was water engineering. In this subject, the aqueducts and strategies were examined for keeping water. Even it was used to draw water from water-rich areas to underwater regions. These were one of the only strategies for the conservation of critical resources. Your rethinking of this issue in architecture is admirable.
Villa: Please tell us more about the UNESCO global network of learning cities.
The network of learning cities is one of the major programs of this organization. This network consists of three main points:
UNESCO defines a learning city as a city that:
• Effectively mobilizes its resources in every sector to promote inclusive learning from basic to higher education;
• revitalizes learning in families and communities;
• facilitates learning for and in the workplace;
• extends the use of modern learning technologies;
• enhances quality and excellence in learning; and
• fosters a culture of learning throughout life.
In doing so, it will enhance individual empowerment and social inclusion, economic development and cultural prosperity, and sustainable development.
The program seeks to educate entrepreneurship from childhood, and, in addition, maximize the usage of the capacity of a city and region.
Hanieh Farajzadeh l Villanews