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On November 19 A World at School and the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) hosted in London (UK) a youth rally titled Our Future, Our Rights – Youth Rising #UpForSchool. The event was held on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Hundreds of students, teachers and advocates gathered at the Southbank Centre, and many people followed the event in streaming (the video of the rally is available here).
The event was organised to launch the #UpForSchool petition, calling on world leaders to keep their promise to ensure education for all children by the end of 2015. Today, 58 million children around the world are still out of school and cannot receive an education.
“We’ve seen the internet, artificial intelligence, human genome; yet 58mln children are still denied an education” Gordon Brown #UpForSchool
— GLOBI (@GLOBI_inclusion) November 19, 2014
The rally was hosted by Paralympian, TV presenter and actor Ade Adepitan, and started with a beautiful peformance by Amrit Kaur Lohia, Global Youth Ambassador for A World at School, singing “A Change Is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke.
A number or influential speakers were invited on stage to support the #UpForSchool campaign, including Kailash Satyarthi, 2014 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Gordon Brown, former British prime minister and United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, Shazia Ramzan and Kainat Riaz, who were injured on the school bus when Malala Yousfzai was shot by the Taliban in Pakistan in 2012, A World at School co-founder Sarah Brown, Camfed founder Ann Cotton, and ODI Executive Director Kevin Watkins.
Video messages from Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF, and Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General, were projected, along with the stories of some children who cannot access education.
The speakers underlined that in 2000 world leaders promised through the Millennium Development Goals that all children around the planet would be at school by the end of 2015. However, 58 million children are still illiterate and cannote even write their own name, as they don’t have access to education. Many of these children work in child labour, are in child marriages, or are discriminated against just because they are girls or have disabilities: we have the responsibility to personally invest more on children in terms of health, education and protection.
Gordon Brown and Kevin Watkins announced that they will be calling on the UN to establish a children’s human rights court. Gordon Brown further stated that the fight for education could be the most important civil rights campaign of our generation.
Shazia Ramzan, 16, and Kainat Riaz, 17, recounted how they were targeted in Pakistan for being girls who wanted to go to school. Books are their future, they said, and education is a fundamental human right that must be defended.
2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi described his work in India. His organisation Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement) rescued hundreds of children from slave-labour conditions, and Satyarthi announced: “It is quite simple. I want to use my Nobel Peace Prize to end child exploitation and get every child to school.”
— GLOBI (@GLOBI_inclusion) November 19, 2014
Ann Cotton, who recently won the 2014 WISE Prize for Education for her work in helping marginalised children in Africa, highlighted the connection between poverty and lack of education. She further stated that “Not going to school damages the mind – it is mental and emotional violence that says ‘You don’t count. The world doesn’t care about you and your right to education’”.
Questions were asked to the panelists in relation to the rights of children with disabilities, and strategies to ensure protection for children during crises such as the Ebola outbreak.
In conclusion, Sarah Brown introduced the #UpForSchool petition, which already has pledges of 12 million signatures from various organisations around the globe. Brown further invited children and youth to participate in this global initiative, mentioning that “It is time to be impolite” when defending children’s rights.
It is time to stand#UpForSchool: sign the petitionHERE!
(Picture © Andrea Pregel, globi-observatory.org)
Andrea Pregel is an inclusion professional with experience in disability, development, education, gender and health across Europe and Asia. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Social Research from the University of Turin (Italy), and an Erasmus Mundus MA/Mgr in Special and Inclusive Education from the University of Roehampton in London (UK), the University of Oslo (Norway) and Charles University in Prague (Czech Republic). He is Co-founder and President of the Global Observatory for Inclusion (GLOBI), and works as Programme Advisor for Social Inclusion and Disability at Sightsavers International.