Addressing global challenges through education at 20CCEM | Interview with Ahnivar Peralta, Commonwealth Scholar

Last month, the 20th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers (20CCEM) took place in Fiji – the ACU took a delegation of vice-chancellors and students to 20CCEM to represent the diversity of our membership. Ahinvar Peralta, a Commonwealth Scholar from Belize who studied for a Master's at the University of the South Pacfic in Fiji was a part of this delegation, representing students/youth views to ministers from across the Commonwealth. We spoke to Ahnivar to find out what he gained from being a part of the ACU delegation to 20CCEM.

Why did you want to attend CCEM?

Having spent two years in Fiji, studying for a Master's degree at the University of the South Pacific (USP) through the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan (CSFP), I wanted to attend the 20CCEM to share my experiences and the knowledge I obtained during my time in Fiji. I wanted to showcase the profound and life lasting personal development that I received due to the interaction with Pacific Island students and lecturers at USP. Also, I wanted to pass on my appreciation and admiration for the meaningful lifestyle and vibrant cultures of the Fijian communities. My intention was to encourage other developing nation students to apply for a Commonwealth Scholarship so they can also have the same (or even better!) life changing experiences and academic exposure that I was able to have.

Ahnivar Peralta with Commonwealth SG Baroness Patricia Scotland

Ahnivar Peralta with Baroness Patricia Scotland, Commonwealth Secretary General, at a reception for hosted by the Secretary General at 20CCEM in Fiji

What did you expect to gain from attending?

By attending 20CCEM, I hoped to share my experiences and listen to the experiences of other scholars, with the aim of meaningfully contributing to a wider appreciation of the importance of Commonwealth Scholarships. I was also particularly interested in observing the dialogue process between education ministers, and gaining a better understanding about how education plans for the Commonwealth are designed. Lastly, I wanted to voice my views and contribute towards the development process of education plans, so that they are inclusive of the end users: the students.

As a Commonwealth Scholar from Belize whose Master's focuses on climate change, I joined the ACU delegation as a youth representative. During the ministerial meeting on the report of the CSFP, I conveyed my gratitude to the Commonwealth countries for their unconditional support and I encouraged countries to continue supporting the CSFP. In this manner, developing countries, such as Belize, can build the capacity of young and aspiring students so that youths can become responsive and contribute towards the resilience and sustainable development goals of their home country.

The young generation of communities will be tomorrow's leaders and only through educational opportunities will the young population be able to contribute to sustainable development. Also, I raised that climate change is posing serious challenges to development in developing nations and it is through this Commonwealth Scholarship that scholars, like myself, can be in a better position to help countries and communities address the impacts of climate change.

What was your highlight of CCEM?

After delivering my address at the ministerial meeting, it was very heart-warming to see that education ministers were listening. The responses delivered by the ministers were also very touching, because they appreciated my request and mentioned that they will make all efforts given their limited resources to contribute to the expansion of the CSFP.

They stated that in order for countries to move forward towards sustainable and resilient pathways, young people need to be given educational opportunities. In this manner, youths can contribute to the development and resilience building process. This feedback motivated me to continue advocating for the Commonwealth Scholarships and more education opportunities for young and aspiring students.

What do you think was the most important outcome from CCEM? What would you like to see happen across the Commonwealth as a result of this?

The Commonwealth Climate Resilience Network established with the three initiating education institutions – the University of the South Pacific, Fiji National University, and the University of the West Indies – forms a fundamental foundation that will enhance collaboration between the Pacific and Caribbean regions in an effort to mitigate the impacts of climate change. These two regions are current and anticipated victims of climate change, and in my view this network consolidates efforts to ensure and develop resilience building within countries through research, education opportunities, and partnerships.

I fully support the establishment of this initiative since it is only through united collaboration that the issue of climate change can truly be addressed. This network will lead to the enhancement of resiliency and sustainable development through action for many regions.

Where do you think this experience will take you next? What are your plans for the future?

I attended the Integrated Partners Forum (IPF) sessions and some ministerial meetings during the 20CCEM. This experience allowed me to further develop my understanding of various processes such as planning, dialogue and interaction with students, panellists, and education ministers on how to develop education plans and agreements. I am confident that the experience gained at the 20CCEM has placed me in a better position to contribute to the development of actions, policies, and plans that will lead to resilience and sustainable development in my country and wider region.

As a scholar focusing on climate change, I want to ensure that climate change is one of the items considered while developing policies. Belize, just like many other developing nations in the Caribbean and the Pacific region, is facing many social, economic, and environmental challenges – and climate change will only exacerbate these challenges.

By educating our people, we can address these challenges, especially climate change, and pave a bright future for our countries.

Ahinvar Peralta is a Commonwealth Scholar from Belize who studied for a Master's at the University of the South Pacfic in Fiji. His research focuses on observing the coastal changes that are associated with the El Niño Southern Oscillation and Sea Levels for two coastal communities in Fiji. His study also captures the observations and perceptions of villagers living the area with regards to climate change, sea levels and climate change adaptation. The findings of the study will be used to enhance the adaptive capacity of villagers and build community resilience by providing pragmatic adaptation measures on how to adapt the impacts of climate change and coastal change.

Read more about his experience here

Last modified on 14/05/2018
Tags: students, sustainable development, scholarships, climate change, Belize, sustainability