May 2014: When it comes to addressing the many complex problems in developing countries, and ending injustice, there is no silver bullet or magical solution - but giving children access to at least 9 years of quality education is about as close as we can get.
Education equips young people with the knowledge and skills they need to broaden their horizons, pursue their ambitions and fulfil their potential. It better positions them to understand and protect their human rights, and to acknowledge and engage in the political system of their country as active and responsible citizens.
With an education, individuals are enabled to live happier, healthier and longer lives, as are their children – they can take control over their own destinies, contribute to decisions affecting their community and pull themselves and their country out of poverty.
But education is not just a powerful and effective solution to extreme poverty, making it the smart thing for governments to invest in; it’s a fundamental human right, making it right and fair for decision-makers to prioritise.
Yet despite this education continues to be denied the attention it deserves, financially and politically, at the global level. In 2000, world leaders promised that, by 2015, every child would be in school – yet over the last few years, progress has slowed, stalled, and in some countries the number in school has recently declined. If we continue the way we’re headed, it won’t be for another 70 years until every child is in school.
But getting kids into school isn’t the only problem – there’s a whole host of other challenges, like ensuring that they don’t drop out, that they receive quality education from qualified teachers, that they are actually making measurable progress and gaining skills, and that the most frequently marginalised and isolated children – and girls in particular – aren’t excluded.
Global education opportunity
In June, government representatives and education ministers from all over the world will gather in Brussels to announce how much money they will donate to the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) in order to fund education projects the world over. GPE is the world’s funding pot for education: properly funded by donor governments, it has the unique ability to ensure school places for children from Nigeria to Pakistan.
The UK government has been one of the biggest donors – and Plan is working flat out to ensure that this remains the case.
The power of hope
I am often asked why I, a British young man from North East England, am at all interested in the rights of children, and particularly girls, who come from backgrounds so different and from countries so far from my own.
The answer is simple. Every day, I interact with, hear of or advocate alongside people who have nothing, or have lost everything, but their hope. Crippled so severely by poverty, burdened by illiteracy and hindered by inequality in their societies, the hope in their voices is tangible. The hope of parents that their children might someday make something of themselves. The hope of young people that they might not be resigned to a life of poverty, that they will be the generation to make their nation prosperous. The hope of girls that they will grow up to something more than just a bride or a housewife. The hope of displaced children that war and conflict will not shatter their future in the same way it has shaken their country.
Time to step up
Young people are the ones who have to live in the future that world leaders are forging today. We will feel the long-term impacts and the legacy of the decisions that are taken now. It’s in our own interest, but it’s also part of our social responsibility as global citizens, to care about and to campaign for quality, universal education – for our fellow young people around the world who might never have the chances we have.
By accident of my place of birth I have been afforded rights and privileges and opportunities of which millions of children around the world could only dream. I’m fortunate and thankful to have them, but I am dismayed that in 2014 so many millions are still denied them, and I am conscious that I could have easily been one of those children. And you could have been one, too.
If you ponder on that thought for just a few seconds, I’m sure you’ll agree that, for the sake of just a few clicks from this page, it’s worth adding your voice to the global rallying cry for education. The future depends upon what we do today. And so today, the world must step up and place education at the top of the global agenda. Together, we can make that happen.
Sign this global petition to help make sure all children have access to basic education