WASHINGTON, Apr 24 - Recording artist Shakira and UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown joined forces this week with millions of students and teachers around the globe calling for redoubled efforts to allow children to attend school.
In 2000 global leaders made a commitment to provide education for all children by 2015. Today, mid-way into the period for achieving that Millennium Development Goal, some 300 million children are still unable to complete secondary school, according to the United Nations.
Among the key reasons are discrimination against girls, indigenous peoples, and children with disabilities; child labor on farms and in sweatshops; poverty; and war.
The Global Campaign for Education is marking Education Action Week (Apr. 21-27) by encouraging its members in 120 countries to teach "The World's Biggest Lesson," to local and national politicians. The group hopes to achieve a Guinness world record for simultaneous teaching of the same lesson.
Yesterday in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai joined children and teachers at a Kabul high school for the event, as did local and national leaders in more than 60 developed and developing countries. In Ghana the vice president, traditional leaders, and local politicians attended a photo exhibit showing the poor conditions of schools in rural areas.
Children are participating actively in most national events, sending postcards to politicians, marching to ministries of education, and preparing education "lessons" for their political leaders.
Excluding children from school, the Biggest Lesson argues, is bad for children and undermines national development goals. Today 72 million children can't attend primary school and another 225 million are unable to attend secondary school. Without a concerted effort, these young people will join the world's 774 million illiterate adults, frustrating personal dreams and undermining countries' ability to compete in the global marketplace.
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Children in many developing countries, for example, are excluded because parents cannot pay school fees, need income from children's labor, or disagree with education for girls. In countries with ongoing conflicts, children may spend years hiding or living in camps with no schools. In some countries there are simply not enough schools or teachers to go around, calling for greater investment by national governments.
In the developing world, noted Shakira at an Action Week conference call on Monday, "children beg for an education and parents are desperate to give it," but education is perceived as "a luxury, not a human right." The net result is perpetuation of the cycle of poverty.
The Millennium Development and Education for All goals committed developing countries to devote more resources to education, while developed countries pledged to provide financial support for reaching the targets. Gordon Brown announced during Tuesday's media conference that the United Kingdom and France pledged each in March to support education for 8 million children in Africa. Brown promised to push for stronger commitments to global education at the European Summit in June and the meeting of the Group of 8 (G-8) most industrialized nations scheduled for July.
"Education is a moral issue as well as an economic issue" and should transcend political divides, Brown affirmed.
In the United States, Colombian-born Shakira and an array of education advocates were in Washington, DC this week to lobby for fulfillment of the bipartisan Education for All (EFA) Act of 2007. The EFA Act seeks to "ensure that the United States provides the resources and leadership to ensure a successful international effort to provide all children with a quality basic education."
The Act calls for a $1 billion investment in bilateral global basic education in 2008, scaling up to $3 billion by 2012. It also requires the U.S. president to develop a comprehensive national strategy for U.S. support of the 2015 goal of universal access to education.
© 2008 One World.net