#UpForSchool Town Hall


Over a thousand young people, campaigners, celebrities and leaders gathered in New York on Monday for the #UpForSchool Town Hall event.

Organised jointly by Theirworld and UNICEF, we gathered in the historic Town Hall – host over the decades to suffragette agitators and civil rights activists – to mark the handing in of over 10 million signatures for the #UpForSchool petition, reaffirming the inalienable right for every child to access education.

After an preshow by I Sell the Shadow, Berean Community Drumline, and GYA Amrit Kaur Lohia, Theirworld President Sarah Brown and UNICEF Deputy Chief Executive Fatoumata Ndiaye started the proceedings. The main show was split into three sections, each dealing with a main theme:  #UpForschool, Safe Schools, and Girls’ Education.

1: #UpForSchool

MCed by actor Rainn Wilson, and youth activist Lulu Cerone, this section paid tribute to the amazing work done by Global Youth Ambassadors and our outstanding partners in helping to the  #UpForSchool petition surge past 10 million signatures. Partnersconvert included ANCEFAMuslim AidSave The Children in Brazil and Norway, AvaazWalk FreeIdara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA), World Vision,BRACSalvation ArmyCSEIPlanAngry BirdsPhilippines Foundation, Thandi Tutu and Silvana Koch-Mehrin, founder of Women Political Leaders.

.@Muslim_Aid collected 2 million signatures for #UpForSchool. Huge support here for a major leader of this movement. pic.twitter.com/DbTxhMAWoR

— GFC Education (@GFCEducation) September 28, 2015

2: Safe Schools

Starting with a sobering interview between UN Special Envoy for Education Gordon Brown and Salome (a pseudonym to protect her identity) – one of the Chibok girls

who escaped their Boko Haram captors in Nigeria, this section was dedicated to addressing the urgency of making schools safe:

They told us to say our last prayers, that they were going to kill all of us. But I jumped out of the truck and spent the night in the forest.” She and her friend who also escaped were eventually rescued. She said: “I pray my sisters are still alive and one day they will come back to school.

Salome, a Chibok girl who escaped Boko Haram, bravely shares her story at #UpForSchool Town Hall. #BringBackOurGirls pic.twitter.com/QkZxRcO10f

— A World at School (@aworldatschool) September 28, 2015

Safe schools partners from Latin America, where the Global Business Coalition for Education is expanding its safe schools initiative in partnership with A World at School and UNICEF. Together, our new Strong Schools and Communities Initiative will explore opportunities for school communities, national authorities, and the private sector to strengthen programmes that protect learning environments and promote an open dialogue among communities throughout the region. You can learn more here.

We also discussed our ongoing Safe Schools work in Lebanon, with ambassador Laura Carmichael coming on stage to talk about her trip to see Syrian refugee children in Lebanon. Present in the audience was Lebanon’s education minister, Elias Bou Saab. Gordon Brown paid tribute to his leadership in helping 200,000 Syrian children back into school this year, and discussed further plans to get one million Syrian refugee children into school in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. Learn more about it here.

Also on stage were representatives from two of our Safe Schools partners – Annemiek Hoogenboom from People’s Postcode Lottery, whose players and staff have been instrumental in driving the implementation on the double-shift school system in Lebanon, and Tariq Al Gurg, CEO of the philanthropic organisation Dubai Cares, who is launching a new partnership with Theirworld to explore new solutions and meet  education challenges faced in emergencies.

.@PostcodeLottery is making a huge difference for children in conflict zones. @annamiek speaks pic.twitter.com/qaDZxqbqQK

— Theirworld (@theirworld) September 28, 2015

Adam Braun, Director of the Global Education Platform announced that  – alongside partners WattpadSTiR Education, HP, Twitter India and Teach for India – a Global Education Platform pilot will be launched in India on October 1. YourStoryIndia will be the largest and most inclusive youth digital writing contest in India’s history.

3: Girls’ Education

For this section, Sarah Brown was joined by statesperson, activist, and member of the Elders, Graça Machel, Africa Gathering co-founder Marieme Jamme and Codeacademy co-founder Zach Simms to discuss the ongoing need for gender equality in girls’ education.

You want to break the cycle of poverty? Educate a girl. You want a healthy family? Educate a girl. You want to take society to be much more just? Educate a girl.

Finally, closing out the ceremony, was Nobel Peace Price laureate Kailash Satyarthyi, who had this to say:

“The petition by 10 million is not just a petition. It is a clarion call from 10 million people that we want education and through education we want freedom.”

Please go here to read the full account of the event.

Photo Credit: Steve Gong