One Month Down at UNESCO - When Manifestation Becomes Reality 🔮

Oummou Diallo in Geneva, Switzerland

June 18, 2024

New Employee Welcome Kit includes UNESCO branded bag, paper and pens

It is official! I am part of the UNESCO-IBE Team 🙌🏽

As I approach the one-month mark of my UNESCO fellowship, I find myself overwhelmed by a profound sense of gratitude and amazement. What began as a mere aspiration – to positively impact education on the African continent – has rapidly evolved into a tangible reality that exceeds even my wildest expectations.

Let me rewind a bit. During my interviews for different UNESCO offices (Thailand, Chile, Switzerland), I made no secret about my driving passion - transforming education across the African continent. Little did I know that a simple recommendation from the head of the Liaison Bureau would set me on an unparalleled path at the prestigious International Bureau of Education (IBE) in Geneva.

Two days after touching down in late May, I was thrown right into the thick of it at an expert meeting on curriculum and transformative education. Talk about a wake-up call! I quickly realized how little the general public understands about the depth and complexity involved in designing national curricula. 

Group photo of the workshop participant outside the conference room.
Last day of the Expert meeting on producing a UNESCO-IBE reader in curriculum and pedagogical transformation.
Shot of the front of the historic Palais des Nations with the iconic Broken Chair sculpture by Daniel Berset
The grand Palais des Nations, housing the United Nations Geneva headquarters. In the foreground, the striking "Broken Chair" sculpture - a 12-meter tall chair with one leg shattered. This powerful symbol denounces armed violence against civilians. Its presence takes on heightened significance given the escalating violence and humanitarian crisis unfolding in Palestine, a haunting reminder amid the halls where the world's diplomats gather.

Over those three whirlwind days (where admittedly I was also a bit jetlagged), I was fully immersed in a whole new world - one where curriculum development extends far beyond drafting a simple syllabus. From cultural considerations and pedagogical approaches to resource allocation and stakeholder engagement, the process demands a delicate balance and a holistic, nuanced understanding. An entire tapestry of elements coming together for effective teaching and learning. 

One of the most rewarding projects so far has been my work on multilingual education initiatives in Madagascar. Teaming up with veteran consultants and experts has provided priceless insights into researching language policies that truly uplift student outcomes across an entire nation. The potential impact is both humbling and electrifying.

The dedication to ensuring equal access to quality education, regardless of socioeconomic status or geography, is downright contagious! Every conversation, every meeting, and every project serves as a testament to the transformative power of education and the unwavering efforts of those committed to its advancement on a global scale.

Night shot of the iconic Jet d'Eau fountain in Lake Geneva, with the city skyline in the background.
Geneva's famous harbourfront comes alive at night. The Jet d'Eau fountain takes center stage, while the shoreline along Lake Geneva bustles with activity. Restaurants, walking paths, pop-up events, and even a city beach create a vibrant atmosphere for locals and visitors to enjoy the waterfront after dark.

Looking ahead to the remaining two months of this incredible opportunity, I am filled with hope and determination. The manifestation of my aspirations into tangible actions has only fueled my drive to continue advocating for educational reform, particularly on the African continent. Armed with the invaluable lessons and experiences gained during this fellowship, I feel better equipped to tackle the challenges that lie ahead.

To those considering a similar path, and a passion for reshaping the education landscape, I encourage you to embrace every opportunity that comes your way - even the unexpected ones. Those are often the detours that unlock our true potential and the profound impact we can have on the world around us.

Oummou Diallo headshot

Oummou Diallo is a Master’s candidate in the International Education Program at the George Washington University. Her research focuses on social justice, critical inquiry, and the impacts of colonial legacies on marginalized communities, particularly in the context of education and youth development in sub-Saharan Africa.