Inspiring stories of five young leaders who stood #UpForSchool

Up for School or #upforschool campaign

The #UpForSchool youth rally in New York was an inspiring event – attended by 300 young activists demanding that world leaders keep to their promise that all children would be in school by the end of 2015.

The September 22 gathering at New York University’s Kimmel Center also saw the launch of the #UpForSchool Petition. On the stage were some of the biggest names in global education, including campaigner Graca Machel and Gordon Brown, United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education.

Part of the event was a section called Standing #UpForSchool, where the stories of out-of-school children from around the world were told. Five youth leaders told the story of another child – each on themes of the #EducationCountdown, a 500-day campaign running until the end of 2015.

The stories were so inspiring, we’re publishing them for a wider audience. So read on and see why many people were so moved at the #UpForSchool rally. And if you haven’t already signed our #UpForSchool Petition, you can do it here.


I am Esther from South Africa. I am proud to stand up for school with Keshob from Bangladesh (pictured above).

Born in a town in Bangladesh where over one in five young women with primary schooling are married by age 15, Keshob was inspired to start what is known as the “wedding busters”, a youth-led organisation that runs child marriage-free zones. As president of the wedding busters, Keshob has been directly involved in stopping many young girls from being forced into marriages.

Nine million girls are forced into marriage every year. Keshob is working to change that.

And he is why I am #UpForSchool.


My name is Gaoshan from China. I am #UpForSchool with Urmila from Nepal (pictured above).

At the tender age of six, Urmila was as sold as a kamalari or child servant for just about $70.

She remained trapped for 12 long years, deprived of education and forced to do hard work until one day when she fled and liberated herself after learning that the kalamari system was in fact illegal.

She used her experience and passion for change to establish the Kamalari Girls’ Freedom Forum – a movement, which has rescued thousands of girls from illegal labor and allowed them to go back to school.

There are 165 million children forced to do illegal work every year. Urmilla fights to change that.

And she is why I am #UpForSchool.


My name is Yassin from the Gambia. I am rising up for school with Wilda from Indonesia (pictured above).

A few years ago Wilda Janah learned of a child in her community who dropped out of school in the first grade. He had a problem understanding the lessons, so his teachers gave up on him. Wilda decided to do something to help kids in her community.

She began tutoring a small group of elementary-age children in her home and as the demand grew, she transformed her home into a literacy center for the kids in her community.

250 million children can not read and write. 160 million of them even after having spent four years in school. Wilda is working to change that.

She is why I am #UpForSchool.


My name is Daniela from Mexico. I am proud to stand up for school with Raouia from Morocco (pictured above).

Raouia was the oldest girl in her class. In 2013, the Moroccan minister of education visited her school. In front of her entire school, the minister pointed at Raouia and said: “You! Your time would be better spent looking for a man.”

Raouia was ashamed as her schoolmates made fun of her. She eventually stopped going to school. But with help from the Moroccan Human Rights Association and support of her family, Raouia did not only return to school, she started a campaign to demand an apology from the minister and inspire other girls to go to school.

Over half of the 58 million children out of school are girls – just because they are girls. Raouia is working to change that. She is why I am #UpForSchool.


My name is Bamine and I am from Sierra Leone. I am proud to be standing up for school with the incredible Awa from the village of Chibok in Nigeria (pictured above)

On the night of April 14, 2014, Awa and hundreds of her schoolmates at the Chibok boarding school in northeastern Nigeria awoke to the sound of gunfire. They saw men in camouflage approaching and thought soldiers were coming to save them from a militant attack. Instead, Awa and 275 of her friends were abducted by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram.

The story of Awa and her friends inspired a global #BringBackOurGirls campaign and the Safe Schools Initiative to protect hundreds of schools in Nigeria and around the world.

Last Sunday marked five months since Awa and her friends have been held in captivity. Their crime is that they defied the threats of Boko Haram who had declared girls’ education an abomination.

28 million children are out of school because of conflict. Nigeria has nine million children out of school. Awa and her friends were trying to change that.

She is why I am #UpForSchool.

More news

See all news