Invest in education, former child soldier and inspirational activist tells world leaders

Mohamed Sidibay Voices 2
Mohamed Sidibay became a teacher to underprivileged children in Colombia (Mohamed Sidibay / Facebook)

Barriers to education, Child soldiers, Global Youth Ambassadors, Right to education

Mohamed Sidibay - one of Theirworld's Global Youth Ambassadors - will make an impassioned plea at the Global Partnership for Education's financing conference.

A former child soldier who overcame tragedy to become a teacher and human rights activist will call on world leaders today to give every child hope by investing in education.

Mohamed Sidibay was only five when his parents and his brother and sister were murdered by rebels during the civil war in Sierra Leone. He was forced to fight for them for years before being dumped on the street, poor and illiterate.

But education helped to turn his life around. Now the 25-year-old will address international leaders and ask them to help deliver quality schooling to millions of children in developing countries.

Mohamed – who is one of Theirworld’s network of Global Youth Ambassadors in 80 countries – is to make a speech at the Global Partnership for Education’s financing conference in Senegal today. 

I put down the gun and picked up the pen. Now it's your turn. I ask you to do right by us and make 2018 the year we transformed global education. Mohamed Sidibay

He will say: “I grew up in a world where justice and fairness were hidden by the barrel of my AK-47 that stood taller than I was. I have been orphaned, uneducated, homeless and raped. 

“The world that I was living in was one where I was given a gun instead of a pen, ordered to do drugs instead of being advised to stay away from them, instructed to kill or be killed instead of attending school.  

“I am the last person holding my family name – and the first to see the inside of a classroom.”

The GPE needs $3 billion from donors to help the education of 870 million children in more than 60 countries that are home to three-quarters of the world’s out-of-school population.

It’s the first big event in a crucial year for global education. United Nations agencies also need their education work financed, as does the Education Cannot Wait fund for schooling in humanitarian emergencies. 

Mohamed Sidibay Voices 3

Mohamed showing his support for Theirworld’s #RewritingTheCode campaign, to raise awareness of the embedded values that hold girls back (Mohamed Sidibay / Facebook)

Then the G20 countries have the opportunity to see in an innovative funding scheme that could unlock $10 billion a year to help get millions of children into school.

Mohamed will appear alongside the co-hosts of the GPE conference in Dakar – Senegal’s President Macky Sall and French President Emmanuel Macron.

He will tell donor countries: “We are stunned to see aid to education reduce every year since 2011. Join me in making 2018 the year we turn this around, starting in Senegal and then moving on to the G20 at the end of the year.

“I put down the gun and picked up the pen. Now it’s your turn. I ask you to do right by us and make 2018 the year we transformed global education.”

Mohamed was forced to operate as a child soldier with the Revolutionary United Front in Sierra Leone for seven years until his release in 2002. At the age of 12, he attended an awards ceremony in New York but refused to return to his home country. He was granted asylum and went to high school in the United States.

Mohamed became a teacher to underprivileged children in Colombia. His advocacy work saw him appointed to the Youth Panel of the global Education Commission.

Listen to Mohamed being interviewed for the BBC

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