Sarah Brown: five actions that can deliver education for every child in the world in 2015

Safe schools, Sarah Brown, Up for School or #upforschool campaign

The challenge to get 58 million children into school and learning by the end of this year to meet the United Nations’ promise is a tall order to say the least – but there of many of us around the world who are not giving up!

At the end of 2014, it may have appeared global progress to help 58 million children go to school had more than stalled: more attacks on schools than any time in the past 40 years and emergencies – from Ebola to a continued refugee flow in the Middle East – forced millions of children out of school.

But in the face of these setbacks, something remarkable is emerging. A movement, led by young people and supported by NGOs, civil society, teachers, business leaders, faith organisations, celebrities, campaigners, global leaders, policy experts and digital advocates has come together – committed to keeping our promise and achieving A World at School by the end of this year. This deadline is fast approaching and, without any real action on the part of governments, nothing will change. And, as Nelson Mandela reminded us: “Promises to children should not be broken.”

I have selected the five actions that could create the tipping point for universal education and unlock opportunity for 58 million children this year. All five actions are showing a sense of momentum but I predict it will be the growing people-powered movement that delivers it all.

ACTION 1: Donors stepping up with co-ordinated, targeted funding

This article by Brookings highlights the severe drop in donor commitment to education. And with many developing countries unable to allocate enough money domestically to achieve universal education, and countries in conflict woefully unable to respond, support from the international community is vital to help fill the gaps and catalyse additional financing.

We need bilateral donors to come together to do more for out-of-school children in a more co-ordinated way to get results. The Oslo Summit in July will be a key moment for making these commitments.

ACTION 2:  Countries making a plan for every child’s place in school

In all countries off-track to meet the Millennium Development Goal of universal education by the end of 2015 , we need a clear, costed plan to achieve universal education. By the end of this year, children should know that their governments have a roadmap for them to go to school and that each is putting 20% of the country’s budget into making it happen. 

Our MDG scorecard later this month will show which countries are off-track and still have yet to have a clear plan in their strategies for the donor community and country to come behind. With less than a year left, now is the time. We hope to see the numbers on our scorecard shift as more and more countries rise to the children to challenge and keep their promise at key meetings and at the UN in September.

ACTION 3: Delivering Safe Schools

Even before the horrific killing of more than 150 students and staff in their school in Peshawar, Pakistan, the number of attacks on schools and colleges around the world hit its highest levels in 40 years. Coupled with the fact that half of all out-of-school children globally live in areas of conflict, funding to safeguard learning for these children is shamefully low.

There needs to be a commitment to providing a safe school to children free from the threat of violence – and this will only happen if governments and other non-state actors work together to make education in emergencies a priority. This means fixing the financing bottlenecks that do not prioritise education, making new funding available and establishing the political will to make safe schools a priority.

ACTION 4: Forcing the hands of world leaders through people power

In 2000, the Drop the Debt campaign was the largest call to action which resulted in major reforms alleviating the least developed countries of debt. The lesson: people power influences our decision makers. The #UpForSchool Petition – recently launched and already signed by more than 1.5 million people around the world – is demanding world leaders take urgent action in 2015.

Young people are leading this movement, participating in rallies in Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the UK, US, Norway and India. In September, world leaders will meet at the last United Nations General Assembly before the MDGs expire and they will not be able to ignore a global call to action so loud that once and for all, they keep the promise to put our children into school.

ACTION 5: Ending discrimination against girls and boys

To make sure we have no unfinished business at the end of this year, we must put an end to all violations against children’s rights keeping them away from school. This means ending forced marriage, which impacts 38,000 girls a day. This means ending the root causes of poverty, which make girls less likely to get a chance at school. 

And it means ensuring that the 15 million children who are working and not in school are moved from exploitation into education. The leadership of 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner Kaliash Satyarthi, faith leaders and other anti-slavery campaigners and children’s rights organisations this year will be crucial to seeing action taken to protect the rights of the most vulnerable in country-by-country campaigns for action.

Getting every girl and boy into school is a fundamental part of tackling the root causes of inequality, injustice, poverty and climate change. As the network of organisations have come together this year to mobilise under the banner of Action 2015, I hope we can make this year a year of action where we deliver the results we promised to our children once and for all.

You can make your voice heard by signing the #UpForSchool Petition now.

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