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UpForSchool

This page tells how the #UpForSchool Petition organised by the A World at School movement gathered more than 10 million signatures to make it the biggest education petition in history. You will also find out about how the #UpForSchool campaign continues to raise awareness worldwide about every child's right to a quality education.

More than 10 million people worldwide signed the #UpForSchool Petition, which was organised by the A World at School movement and handed in to world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly in 2015. It was the biggest petition for education in history and was a massive global declaration that every child deserves a quality education.

All over the world, whatever their circumstances, people saw the true value of education and recognised children's human rights, so they chose to add their voice to the campaign. The petition was signed by school students, out-of-school children, parents, business people, youth, university students, community leaders, religious leaders, politicians and many others.

Among the millions of written names were also the "signatures" of illiterate child labourers who added their inky thumbprints to the pages of the petition.

#UpForSchool was a demand that world leaders kept the promise made at the United Nations in 2000 that every child in every country would receive a good primary school education by the end of 2015. But, more than that, it spread the word about children and young people's rights to education across the globe. 

What has happened in the #UpForSchool campaign?

The #UpForSchool Petition was launched by A World at School - a movement convened by Theirworld - at a rally with 300 youth activists in September 2014 in New York City. Speakers on the stage included international humanitarian campaigner Graca Machel and Gordon Brown, the UN Special Envoy for Global Education.

The launch was timed to take place as world leaders gathered to attend the UN General Assembly, to remind them of their promise of universal education. The campaign adopted the sign of an upturned book as the #UpForSchool symbol.

This was the start of a year of determined campaigning in countries across the globe and was also the focus to demand action on other education issues.

Community and international campaigning organisations joined forces to mobilise for it. Huge support was given by faith-based organisations such as Muslim Aid, World Vision and the Salvation Army and by religious figures such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu in South Africa.

Young activists like A World at School's Global Youth Ambassadors – 500 young people in more than 80 countries - were vital and energetic leaders. They organised youth rallies around the world to launch the campaign in Lebanon, London, South Africa, Nigeria, Guyana, the Philippines and many more countries. They gathered support from people face-to-face at community and youth events and by using their online news and social media networks. Between them they persuaded one million people to sign the petition.

In December 2014, hundreds of young people joined the prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and leading UN figures at the country's launch of the petition at the University of Kinshasa. At that point more than 20,000 Congolese had already signed the petition and youth ambassadors aimed to get a total of one million signatures.

Also in December 2014, 132 schoolchildren and 13 others were killed in a terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar, Pakistan. Following the attack another one million people signed the petition. At the same time A World at School drew up a 15-point plan for safe schools that was backed by Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

In February 2015, in India 10,000 children marched though Delhi to back the #UpForSchool campaign and call on the Indian government to spend more on education and health.

Many of the Global Youth Ambassadors around the world marked International Women’s Day 2015 by holding events that focused on girls’ education and asking people to support and sign the #UpForSchool Petition. One #UpForSchool campaign of 5000 signatures in Sierra Leone was taken to the president to try to persuade him to reverse a decision to exclude pregnant girls from school.

The British humanitarian charity Muslim Aid teamed up with A World at School in March 2015. It started with a modest display outside an East London Mosque, then local Muslim Aid offices mobilised supporters in their own countries to campaign for #UpForSchool and resulted in almost two million signatures.

More than five million children in Pakistan are denied an education. Muslim Aid in Pakistan collected 669,115 signatures in less than three months.

In Bangladesh the development organisation BRAC used its vast network of schools and adolescent development clubs across the country to gather more than 1.2 million signatures.

Organisations like World Vision Bangladesh and Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi in Pakistan collected millions of signatures with activists going door-to-door and holding events in their local towns, villages, shops, markets, schools and universities.

By July 2015 there were eight million signatures. They were taken to the Oslo Education Summit in July where world leaders agreed to back a fund for education in humanitarian emergencies and look at reversing the decline in education funding.

Celebrating the world’s biggest education petition

In New York, where the petition signing had started, singer, songwriter and education campaigner Shakira handed over a book with more than 10 million signatures to Gordon Brown.

Shakira, a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and a passionate advocate for children's education in her home country of Colombia and around the world, had been a crucial campaigner for the petition, mobilising the power of her millions of followers on social media.

The handover was also attended by two of A World at School's Global Youth Ambassadors - Dawnique Shury from Guyana and Benedict Joson from the Philippines.

The handover took place as the UN General Assembly met in New York to agree the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). So the messages from the petition were shared with leaders from governments, businesses, UN agencies and non-governmental organisations, highlighting the global demand for action on the promise of education for every child.

The incredible success of the petition was celebrated by 1500 young campaigners at an #UpForSchool Town Hall event hosted by Theirworld and the UN children's agency UNICEF, which joined forces to make education a priority on the first day of the SDGs.

It was an event to honour the amazing work done by so many activists, including the GYAs which was told in the video called Rise, made by Steve Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American director, writer and film producer who helped to spread the #UpForSchool message.

The campaign goes on

But the story doesn’t end there. The impetus of the #UpForSchool campaign is still being felt by young people and supporters who continue to spread the word.

Balicharan, a community leader who organised the #UpForSchool Petition signing among the children and families who work as rag-pickers in Delhi, said: "Because of a lack of education, these people are left behind and are forced to do this type of work. Education was not being highlighted here. But with the #UpForSchool campaign, the focus on education has been strengthened and the rag pickers' voices will travel further. And more people will know about their situation.

"Through this, the community has became aware of the fact that in India every child has a right to education under law."

A blog by GCN Uganda about what #UpForSchool and the new Sustainable Development Goals meant for the country, urged readers to build on the campaign. It said: “You can expect focus on education SDG 4 in policy formulation for education in Uganda. And more specific interventions by the government to increase the number of girls going and staying in school.

“Keep the flame burning! Share the report, get your friends to sign the petition!"

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