#UpForSchool blog: youth challenge world leaders with rally and petition

Up for School or #upforschool campaign

More than 300 youth activists are holding a rally in New York today to demand world leaders act to keep their Millennium development Goal promise and get 58 million children into school by the end of 2015. 

As the 69th United Nations General Assembly begins, the young activists are launching the #UpForSchool movement and petition. And they’re being joined by some big names on the world stage – including Graca Machel and Gordon Brown.

This blog will keep you up to date with news, pictures and videos from the youth rally and the launch of the petition. The rally starts at 4.30pm EST but you can visit throughout the day for updates on a historic day. All times given on this blog are local New York time (EST).

You can sign the petition now.

Celebrities are already tweeting about the #UpForSchool petition. Here’s one from British Formula 1 racing driver and another from Stephen Fry:


Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education; Graça Machel, international advocate for women’s and children’s rights, widow of Nelson Mandela and the first education minister of Mozambique; Ahmad Alhendawi, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Youth; Peter Vesterbacka, the “Mighty Eagle” of Rovio Entertainment, the company behind the Angry Birds game; Isha Sesay, anchor with CNN International; Hadiza Bala Usman from the Bring Back Our Girls campaign in Nigeria; Baela Jamil, Director of Programmes at Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi and Sarah Brown, co-founder of A World at School.

There will also be video messages from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and actor and comedian Rainn Wilson.

2.00 Britain’s big-selling women’s magazine has tweeted about #UpForSchool.


2.30 At today’s event, we will also be honouring inspirational youth leaders on the front lines who support education in their communities. We’ll be announcing the recipients of the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education’s Youth Courage Awards.

3.00 The stage is being made ready for the big #UpForSchool event. There’s a definitibe buzz around the place as some of our youth leaders from around the world begin to arrive at the Kimmel Center at New York University.

3.20 You can also follow the rally on A World at School’s Twitter page. Follow @aworldatschool and use the hashtag #UpForSchool to follow the conversation and have your say too.

3.30 Malala Yousafzai’s father has tweeted his support for the #UpForSchool Petition


3.45 The #UpForSchool Petition is really gathering pace since its official launch today. And here is one very happy signatory – Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education.


4.44 Now we are Standing #UpForSchool, with the stories of out-of-school children from around the world. Five youth leaders on the stage are telling the story of another child somewhere in the world. They are on some of the themes of the #EducationCountdown, a 500-day campaign running until the end of 2015. 

For the next few minutes, the audience here will be hearing these inspirational stories about child marriage, child labour, quality of teaching and learning, discrimination against girls and education in emergencies. Later we will be publishing these amazing stories on the A World at School website.

4.50 Now for another big moment. – the introduction of the #UpForschool Petition. This has been driven by youth activists who wanted to do even more to highlight the 58 million children out of school around and bring pressure to bear on world leaders to keep their promise that by the end of 2015 every girl and boy would get a primary education.

The petition is online and children, teachers and parents in some key countries are being asked to sign a paper version. The amazing news is that already 10,000 children in Pakistan have signed the petition. You can find out more about the petition and sign it here.

4.51 And this is quite a sight. Chernor Bah has asked all of the special guests on the stage and everyone in the auditorium to sign the #UpForSchool Petition. Some pretty famous names up there, heads down, signing up on their smartphones! And here is a picture of students in Pakistan who have already signed the petition.

4.54 Sarah Brown, co-founder of A World at School tells why the petition was launched. She says: “Political leaders can act when they hear a clear, single, loud version. As soon as they hear many, many voices over and over again, they do something. No political leader in the world can ignore it.”

4.56 Sarah announces that many big names in the fields of education, business, entertainment and faith are backing the petition. They include the Global Partnership for Education, Global Campaign for Education, Sojourners, Education International, Pearson, Hearst Magazines UK, Postcode Lottery in UK and Sweden, Discovery, Sesame Street Workshop and Western Union. And many more will be joining.

4.59 And now for two more videos, urging people to sign the petition –  the first from actor Rainn Wilson, star of the American TV show The Office. You can watch it here…

Next up is a video from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. You can watch it here..

5.02 Now youth leaders are asking questions of the world leaders on the stage – Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education; Graça Machel, international advocate for women’s and children’s rights, widow of Nelson Mandela and the first education minister of Mozambique; Ahmad Alhendawi, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Youth; Peter Vesterbacka, the “Mighty Eagle” of Rovio Entertainment, the company behind the Angry Birds game; Ricken Patel, founding President of the campaigning website Avaaz; Isha Sesay, anchor with CNN International; Hadiza Bala Usman from the Bring Back Our Girls campaign in Nigeria; and Baela Jamil, Director of Programmes at Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi.

5.05 Gordon Brown is asked what world leaders are going to do for global education. He says: “Child labour no more. Child trafficking no more. Child slavery no more. Child marriage no more. World leaders will hear that we are determined that every single child in this world will have the chance to go to school.”

Picture: Steve Gong/A World at School

5.08 Graca Machel (pictured above),widow of Nelson Mandela and civil rights activist, is asked about making schools safe: “My commitment is to work at the community level to strengthen the relationship between the schools and the communities,” she says.

5.18 Some great questions from the young people for the rest of the guests. Ricken Patel from the campaigning website Avaaz and Peter Vesterbacka from the company that makes the Angry Birds games tell the young people that they CAN make their voices heard through the #UpForSchool Petition.

5.20 Hadiza Bala Usman of the Bring Back Our Girls campaign tells how she believes the Safe Schools Initiative is the way to bring safety to the country’s schools. And CNN anchor Isha Sesay tells how she has covered the kidnapping of the Chibok girls and how she has launched the WE Can Lead campaign to help empower girls across Africa.

5.22 Ahmad Alhendawi, UN Secretary-General’s Envoy of Youth, tells how the movie Back To The Future set the future in the year 2015. But that future is almost here. And he said the petition WILL deliver its message to world leaders.

5.24 Baela Jamil, of Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA), is asked what she can do to help deliver the message in her home country Pakistan. She announces that 500 young people will become A World at School Youth Ambassadors in Pakistan. She says: “They are going to be a powerhouse of energy. They will mobilise people and tell them there are 5.4 million children, most of them girls, not in school and who need to be in school. “

5.34 After a stirring spoken word performance from I Sell The Shadow, it’s time for some special awards. Nine amazing young people are being recognised for their achievements. Gordon Brown is handing out the Youth Courage Awards, which are presented by the Office of the UN Special Envoy for Global Education.

Find out here who the winners are.


Rabia Faridi at #UpForSchool rally

Picture: Steve Gong/A World at School

5.45 The last winner of the Youth Courage Awards on to the stage is Rabia Faridi (pictured above), a young village girl who believes the spread of powerful words can change the ideologies of thought about Pakistan, education and women empowerment. Through her writing, public speaking and debates, Rabia exposes and highlights the root causes of illiteracy in rural Pakistan.

She gives a stirring and powerful speech from the heart about education and females in Pakistan. She says: “A woman deserves dignity and to be educated… Let’s speak out because if we will not speak, who will speak for us? If we will not make noise, who make noise for us?

“We are the name of courage, the name of confidence, the name of passion, the name of pride – and I am proud to be a woman.”

Rabia gets a standing ovation from the audience.

5.53 A bit of fun but with a very serious message. The logo for the #UpForSchool campaign and petition is a book held spine upwards in an upside-down V shape. Everyone on the stage and in the audience is now holding books over their heads for a group photo and to send out the message that education is key.

Picture: Steve Gong/A World at School

5.57 Chernor announces that every one is going to march to nearby Washington Square Park for an outdoor rally, where signatures will be collected for the #UpForSchool petition. Drummers lead the way as Gordon Brown leads the way out of the Kimmell Center. Back with you soon with some pictures from the rally in the park.

In the meantime, here are what some people are saying about #UpForSchool on Twitter…

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