How Muslim Aid collected two million #UpForSchool signatures across the world

Up for School or #upforschool campaign

It started with a modest display outside the East London Mosque – and ended with almost two million people adding their names to the global call for every children to get an education.

Muslim Aid – the British humanitarian charity – teamed up with A World at School in March to support the #UpForSchool Petition, which demands world leaders ensure every girl and boy is in school. Muslim Aid’s two million names have helped take the total to eight million signatures, which will be handed in to the United Nations General Assembly in September.

The first 500 signatures were collected in two hours at Friday prayers that day in London, before the organisation took the campaign to its offices in countries across the world. Its work is governed by the teachings of Islam, such as compassion, empathy, generosity and helping others in need.

The #UpForSchool event at East London Mosque

Abu Akeem – a Country Desk Manager at Muslim Aid working on development programmes with field offices throughout Asia – led the charity’s petition drive. He said: “It’s an important campaign that we can all get behind. Education is a priority area for Muslim Aid and many of our teams throughout Asia and Middle East are actively working to secure every child’s right to go to school.

“We asked our supporters to keep adding their voices and show how much our community cares about this issue.”

The various teams went into schools and communities to spread the word about the campaign to get all children into school. They used many different techniques – including this fantastic video produced by a Palestinian youth group who Muslim Aid engaged in the campaign. The video was directed by 25-year-old filmmaker and blogger Mustafa Owda, who lives in the Gaza Strip.

Here is the story of how some of Muslim Aid’s field offices worked tirelessly to collect 1,984,143 (and still growing) signatures for the #UpForSchool Petition and to spread the message of education for all. We asked them how they organised the campaigns and what they had learned along the way.


Signatures collected: one million

About: Website. Petition page. In Bangladesh about 1.8 million children are out of school and a large number do not complete their primary education. Muslim Aid’s education programmes in the country particularly help young people from ethnic groups and minorities, with priority also given to natural disaster-prone coastal communities.

Muslim Aid Bangladesh holds an #UpForSchool event

Children and adults show their support for campaign

Country Director Mohammad Obaidur Rahman and Mustafizur Rahman from the education ministry at campaign launch

How important is #UpForSchool for building awareness of education issues in your country and engaging people in advocacy?

It was a significant event for Muslim Aid Bangladesh Field Office, where the Honorable Minister Advocate Mustafizur Rahman, Ministry of Primary and Mass Education, inaugurated the campaign in Sujapur Model School at Fulbari Upazilla of Dinajpur. After his signing, it was easy to move to other districts. Government bodies and local government were supportive of the signature campaign in 40 out of 64 districts. We also involved media personnel, community leaders, school and college teachers, parents groups, students, people with disabilities, local communities, school management committee, local government and district-level goverment officials in this campaign for building awareness of education.

Was there a special moment during the campaign, or an inspiring person who you engaged with, that motivated you and your team to continue fighting for every child’s right to education?

Abdul Sattar, a tea seller aged 19, is studying in class eight in Raza Palong Fazil Madrassa, Ukhiya – a very remote area in Cox’s Bazar district. During the signature campaign, he shared his feelings. He dropped out of the school when he was in class two. At that time, if there had been this type of campaign, he might not have dropped out. Three youth organisations campaigned for two days at several points in Dhaka. They took the initiative as a learning opportunity and incorporated the theme into their organisational goal. They are now doing it in practice at every workshop, where they give a 10-minute speech to motivate youth to work and ensure the education of street children.

What do you hope that the #UpForSchool campaign can achieve globally?

Significant progress has been made in primary enrolment and attendance. Gains in enrolment and attendance also need to carry over into high rates of primary education completion. The #UpForSchool campaign supports countries who are fighting for every child’s rights to education. This campaign encourages all at community and national policy level to ensure that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling. We hope the campaign can also achieve education for all girls, disabled-friendly environments and infrastructures, the promotion of early child care and development, helping schools to provide supplies, safe water and sanitation, and safeguarding the right to education in emergencies.


Signatures collected: 669,155 

About: Website. The Pakistan field office was established after the 2005 earthquake. Since then, it has served thousands of people in the areas of education, health, humanitarian relief, economic empowerment and sanitation/hygiene.

Collecting #UpForSchool signatures at university in Islamabad

Muslim Aid volunteers get #UpForSchool signatures at university

A Pakistani university student signs the petition

Muslim Aid Pakistan collected 669,115 signatures in less than three months. Using brochures and banners, T-shirts and posters, the humanitarian charity swung into action in March to gather support for the campaign.

Saqib Farooq Babar, Muslim Aid Pakistan Head of Programmes, said: “It was a wonderful activity. I hope that Muslim Aid Pakistan team efforts will contribute to the overall objectives of the campaign and children will get the required support from governments and donor institutions for education.”

A World at School featured its amazing efforts to collect signatures in a separate article in July. You can read it here.


Signatures collected: 44,529

How did you collect signatures?

We trained 36 volunteers on May 24. Signature collection ran from May 25 to June 6. By then we had 42,525 signatures but our staff members Khadija and Kimathi tried collecting more signatures with the help of some volunteers and we were able to reach 44,529.

What challenges did you face?

Some people were hesitant to sign even after we explained the reason why the signatures were being collected. There was another campaign going on that time and so some people confused our campaign with that one. Some people wanted to be paid for them to sign but we told them signatures were purely voluntary. The timeline to collect the signatures could have been longer.

What do you think about the #UpForSchool campaign?

Mohamed Mohamud, Country Representative, said: “With the recent closure of many schools in parts of the country occasioned by insecurity from terror attacks and other conflicts, the #UpForSchool project will go a long way in drawing attention to hundreds of thousands of children whose education has been jeopardised. It is our hope that every child will be able to go to school as a result of the #UpForSchool campaign.”


Signatures collected: 12,300

About: Website. Muslim Aid Lebanon has helped school students through extensive courses and distributing school bags and stationery items in the Palestinian camps.

Muslim Aid Lebanon supports #UpForSchool

Muslim Aid Lebanon Country Director Ahmad Fawzi

Students at school for Syrian refugees in Lebanon

Signing the #UpForSchool petition at school for Syrian refugees

Muslim Aid brought young people along to A World at School’s #UpForSchool rally in Beirut in May. Country Director Ahmad Fawzi handed in 12,000 signatures for the petition to Gordon Brown, United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education.

Mr Fawzi and staff member Widad Yafawi have been leading the campaign. Widad said: “Mr Fawzi felt so much sympathy toward the children at the event. He said we need to help them and to involve them in schools. It’s a crime to keep them out of school and working in fuel stations or factories.

“Muslim Aid will keep collecting more signatures until September 2015. We are #UpForSchool.”


Signatures collected: campaign ongoing

About: Facebook. Muslim Aid has been delivering humanitarian and developmental assistance in Palestine for more than two decades, helping hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to support themselves.

Muslim Aid Palestine took the following measures to expand the campaign and collect signatures:

Established a new page on Facebook for the campaign in Palestine; made videos about the campaign and to persuade people to sign; printed T-shirts to be worn by famous social media activists and made a video of them wearing the shirts; took photos of Palestinian children in their traditional clothes and holding #UpForSchool campaign slogans to be used on Twitter and Facebook

They also co-ordinated with stakeholders in Palestine including governmental entities, schools, universities, partners and NGOs (local and international).


Signatures collected: 5088

About: Website. Has been active in Indonesia since 2005, initially as an emergency response to the earthquake and tsunami that hit Aceh. Since then, it has widened is activities and areas and its emergency relief, reconstruction and development programmes include building schools and enhancing local capacities in the education sector.

College students with #UpForSchool campaign posters

Indonesian TV presenter Ratna Listy backs #UpForSchool

College students in Indonesia support #UpForSchool

More college students show their support for the campaign

Questions answered by Muhammad Diponegoro.

How important is #UpForSchool for building awareness of education issues in your country and engaging people in advocacy?

Muslim Aid believes the campaign is very important. Education in Indonesia is still facing different challenges relating to its quality, such as limited access to education, uneven distribution of teachers and the quality of those teachers. Limited access forces people to move to the city in search of a better education.

Was there a special moment during the campaign, or an inspiring person who you engaged with, that motivated you and your team to continue fighting for every child’s right to education?

Our experience with the campaign shows there is huge support from the public to improve Indonesia’s education. These people come from different background – from students to professionals, youth to adults – and they also come from different regions. Muslim Aid Indonesia sees a positive outcome if we continue the campaign here.

What do you hope that the #UpForSchool campaign can achieve globally?

The problem of education is a very complex issue because it relates to many different factors, such as economy, culture and social status. However, with this campaign Muslim Aid Indonesia hopes that – no matter how challenging the lives of the children are – education is not something should be sacrificed. We believe that education is the channel for them to turn life around and have an equal chance to success as those who are more fortunate. With better education, other pressing problems like health and poverty can be answered gradually, but definitely.


Signatures collected: About 1000

About: Website. During the war (1992-1995) and immediately after, Muslim Aid provided emergency relief and emergency care support for the most vulnerable people in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 2007, the field office was set up to continue with humanitarian work focusing on development projects.

What is the state of education in Bosnia and Herzogovina?

Long-term objectives will focus on increasing enrolment and completion of primary education to 100℅ and ensure that all students in the lower grades of primary school learn a foreign language no later than the third grade, and a second foreign language in the higher grades no later than the seventh grade.

How did you collect signatures?

One person was in charge of coordinating the campaign and they engaged volunteers to work with schools, universities, businesses and organisations. They gave them the campaign materials and the volunteers then reached out to schools, sent emails, used Facebook and shared the petition among their friends and family. Muslim Aid field officers in the country have also been spreading the petition.

What do you think about the #UpForSchool campaign?

Mersiha Zulcic said: “The issue of trust in Bosnia is very important. People have a lack of trust in politicians and a campaign such as this one, which intends to hold politicians to their word, is important. People have been very receptive to the campaign. They have told me that whatever can help education, they want to be a part of it and help. People online were very supportive. This campaign doesn’t ask for money or a donation. It asks for their voice and people can connect with that so they are happy to engage.”


Signatures collected: 4174

About: Website. Muslim Aid established its field office in Cambodia in January 2007. It helps vulnerable communities through its education, health, economic empowerment, housing and shelter, specialist and seasonal programmes along with emergency and relief operations.

Questions answered by Chhet Chhan, Programme Manager.

How important is #UpForSchool for building awareness of education issues in your country and engaging people in advocacy?

It is very important to show all parents and Cambodian citizens the necessity of educating children. The #UpForSchool campaign is very important for people – be they children, teachers, parents, policymakers or politicians – to show solidarity with children across the globe who cannot or do not get the opportunity to go to school.

Was there a special moment during the campaign, or an inspiring person who you engaged with, that motivated you and your team to continue fighting for every child’s right to education?

We’re not inspiring people to sign the petition online. We held events where we showed #UpForSchool materials with good messages placed or shown by our team. We involved provincial education departments, teachers, students and authorities and appealed for universities to support us.

What do you hope that the #UpForSchool campaign can achieve globally?

We hope the campaign will reach and achieve the global plan of getting 59 million children into school. All the people in the world know how important it is for their new generation, so we hope they will support the #UpForSchool campaign.


Signatures collected: 5800

About: Website. Muslim Aid’s office in Sri Lanka, which has 27 staff, focuses on disaster relief and particularly on the response to the 2004 tsunami. It distributed tens of thousands of food packets and non-food packs and helped more than 940,000 people get water. It established two mobile field hospitals, better medical equipment and ambulances, built houses for tsunami-hit families and established six pre-schools and six temporary learning centres.

Questions answered by Mohomed Shihan Haniff, Manager – Fundraising & Communications.

How important is #UpForSchool for building awareness of education issues in your country and engaging people in advocacy?

Even though Sri Lanka’s population has a literacy rate of 98.1%, nearly 50% of the rural students drop out and 16% of children do not attend school at all, The #UpForSchool programme is very important for a country like Sri Lanka to spread awareness of educational issues and to engage people to support these children who are less fortunate.

Was there a special moment during the campaign, or an inspiring person who you engaged with, that motivated you and your team to continue fighting for every child’s right to education? 

Two underprivileged children who came with their parents explained about their situation and the difficulties they face in getting an education with no basic facilities. Another young man who studied only up to preliminary levels told his story about how he struggled to live and face society without having a proper educational background. His story was very inspirational and a motivation for all of us. Many teachers and priests supported us and gave their valuable comments and motivated the team for this great cause.  

What do you hope that the #UpForSchool campaign can achieve globally?

The awareness given to the public can make a huge change in society and it will motivate and give opportunities for social entrepreneurs to work towards educating all children. They also get more ideas and concepts of improving their lacking areas through the campaign. Also the awareness and campaign will give a real push to the government to allocate more in their national budget for the educational sectors and this would be the investment for the future.

You can add your name to Muslim Aid’s #UpForSchool Petition page here. And find out more about the #UpForSchool campaign here.

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