Landmark Moments for Out of School Children Worldwide from Paris, to Geneva and New York
On 27 April, Education Above All/Educate A Child (EAA/EAC) held the “Reaching 10 Million Out of School Children” event at the New York Public Library (NYPL). Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser was joined by such notable personalities as the President of the Republic of Ghana, His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, as well as United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres; Executive Director of UNICEF, Henrietta Fore; and President and CEO of buildOn, Jim Ziolkowski who participated in a panel discussion to demonstrate how progress is possible when organisations and individuals work in partnership.
Her Highness Sheikha Moza stated: “Thanks to the efforts of our Educate A Child programme – and our many global partners – I am proud to announce tonight that we have reached our impossible, our unattainable, and our completely unrealistic objective: 10 million previously out of school children will now receive a quality education! I want to thank everyone, and all of you, who made this possible”.
Furthermore, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo delivered a strong address, remarking “I want each child to know they can achieve anything they believe in”. For his part, Secretary-General António Guterres said, “Our dream of a sustainable future cannot be realised if we do not support children’s dreams to gain an education”.
Leaders in the field of education, development practitioners and technical experts assembled at the NYPL to mark the crossing of this historic milestone for out of school children worldwide. The event showed how even the most marginalised, vulnerable and disenfranchised children can be reached with quality education and by extension an opportunity for a better future. At the conclusion of the 10 Million OOSC event, EAC Executive Director Mary Joy Pigozzi said, “The road to realising this dream was never guaranteed and tonight is the culmination of unvarnished hard work and an insistence that all of us, especially the most vulnerable children, have a right to education and a role to play in making the world a better place”.
In addition, EAA/EAC advocates and supporters ranging from Shakira, to Roger Federer, Forest Whitaker, Alistair Burt and David Miliband took time out of their schedules to voice their support for this historic campaign to increase access to quality primary education to the world’s OOSC.
However, in the run up to this unprecedented 10 million milestone, EAA/EAC organised high-level meetings in partnership with UNESCO and UNHCR in Paris and Geneva respectively to generate momentum and shine a spotlight on education access and rights of children still unrealised. Starting at the end of February, EAA/EAC teamed up with UNESCO to hold “Connecting the SDGs: The Key Role of Education” wherein Her Highness Sheikha Moza was joined by the Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, and to treat the criticality of education in bringing the objectives of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda to fruition. This event also featured representatives from EAA/EAC partners, such as Jacky Lumarque, International Board Member and President of the Latin America and Caribbean Region, Aide et Action; Manuel Patrouillard, Managing Director, Humanity and Inclusion; Jérémie Pellet, Deputy CEO, Agence Française de Développement; and Qian Tang, Assistant Director-General for Education, UNESCO. During the course of the Paris venue, EAA/EAC announced a new three-year education intervention with UNESCO and the Federal Government of Iraq, aiming to reach 150,000 impoverished, internally displaced OOSC.
Then, at the end of March, EAA/EAC collaborated with UNHCR to co-host a high-level gathering under the rubric of “Quality Education for a Sustainable Future”, which sought to underscore disparities in education access and refugee/IDP children at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. This event laid bare the importance of the provision of education for this growing population, with an added emphasis on diversified funding approaches and protection. It also included a panel discussion featuring Her Highness Sheikha Moza; Seninde, Minister of Primary Education of the Republic of Uganda; Kate Gilmore, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights; and George Srour, Founder and Chief Dreamer of Building Tomorrow; and Fillippo Grandi, UNHCR’s High Commissioner, addressing the challenges refugees and IDPs encounter in accessing education and reaffirming the necessity of education for their well-being and long-term prosperity.
Speaking at the event, Her Highness Sheikha Moza said: “Conflict is a growing contributor to the numbers of out of school children, whether they are refugees, IDPs or at home. Education is at the heart of building empowered citizens, who contribute to prosperous, peaceful communities. The devastating social and economic costs of not educating children needs to be recognised and addressed”.
Needless to say, the plight of OOSC worldwide to gain access to quality education continues unabated – according to UNESCO, there are currently 63 million OOSC still; clearly, crossing this historic milestone should focus the world’s attention on a global problem that requires action on the part of everyone. Regardless of any one child’s circumstance, education and education access are incontrovertible human rights. Working to realise SDG 4 in totality, and by extension numerous other goals on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, for the most marginalised children amongst us only serves to build a brighter future for us all.