Why three million people have felt moved to sign #UpForSchool and demand change

A World at School, Up for School or #upforschool campaign

The world record for the biggest ever petition is held by Jubilee 2000. A historic global campaign that led to the cancellation of unjust debt owed by 35 of the poorest countries, resulting in hundreds of thousands of children going to school for the first time ever.  

Our history of people’s movements from apartheid to the suffragettes have shown us that if we act together in big numbers behind a strong compelling demand, we can make change happen.

In just five months, three million people around the world have now come together in a single strong demand  – the #UpForSchool Petition – calling on world leaders to finish the job and get every boy and girl into school, no matter who they are or where they live.  

Every day, on average, 20,000 people add their name to the #UpForSchool Petition. That’s 15 people every minute taking the time to sign their name demanding action from world leaders.

Children at the #UpForSchool rally in Delhi

The #UpForSchool Petition is led by A World at School’s vibrant network of more than 500 inspiring and courageous Global Youth Ambassadors in 85 countries – connected together and sharing ideas on social media. They have organised events, launched websites and held youth rallies in New York, Oslo, Delhi, Nairobi, Kinshasa and London.

This is happening because world leaders promised to get every child into school by 2015. Progress has completely stalled, so young people are calling for action by politicians attending the forthcoming Education Summit being hosted by the Norwegian Government in July and the United Nations General Assembly in September.

They are demanding that donors reverse the current reduction in aid going to basic education and countries with children out of school invest 20% of their own GDP in support of a strong plan targeting out-of-school children.

Attacks on schools and school children are also on the increase so it is crucial for world leaders to urgently support safe schools in conflict and emergency contexts from Syrian refugee camps to countries impacted by Ebola.

Signing #UpForSchool with Brac in Bangladesh

This isn’t a campaign that is simply for those privileged enough to have access to a laptop or phone – connected by Facebook or Twitter. It has purposely sought to capture the voice of those in the most marginalised and excluded communities around the world where children are out of school.

More than 100,000 signatures have been collected door to door in Pakistan. A million people in rural Bangladesh signed the petition in their communities coordinated by Brac. The youth ambassadors campaigning in India are from the most marginalised and excluded groups  – tribal communities, Dalits, Muslim communities and the urban poor.

These are the very groups so often excluded from school coming together behind a simple demand –  that every girl and boy has the right to an education, no matter who they are or where they are born.

There is so little time and so much to do. But with the power of multiplication, and a commitment from each and every one of us, the numbers can build with ease, and fast.  A unique network of organisations is supporting the youth-led #UpForSchool campaign and have pledged to collect more than 15 million signatures.

The #UpForSchool youth rally in Oslo

These include:

Education International – the world’s largest federation of teachers unions around the world (six million signatures)

Avaaz – the global online campaign network (two million)

Education for All in Qatar (one million)

Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) in Pakistan (three million)

The Centre for Social Equity and Inclusion in India (500,000)

Brac in Bangladesh (one million)

World Evangelical Alliance – representing 600 million people (one million)

Tauheedul charity  – a global education charity working around the world (one million)

Signing the #UpForSchool Petition in Nairobi

As the petition gathers pace it becomes more complicated. We are collecting names online via more than 75 individual petition sites in 15 different languages. We are now working with online campaign experts Control Shift Labs to harness the latest in new technologies to put pressure on world leaders. This will connect up and strengthen our network of supporters and give them the tools to build community, leadership and influence.

The #IamMalala campaign brought people together behind the need for every girl and boy to be in school, the #BringBackOurGirls campaign led from Nigeria demanded that the world took notice and couldn’t simply look the other way. People-powered politics influences our decision-makers. Fact.  

Big numbers mobilising over a political issue cannot be ignored. Gathering signatures is just the start. As our petition grows, we’ll deliver it to some of the world’s most powerful people to get their support for an education for every child. The more names we’ve gathered on the petition, the harder it will be for them to ignore our message. We know that nothing changes without pressure.

Why is this petition so important? It’s important because education gives life and a better future.  We know that, no matter how difficult the backgrounds from which they come, those with at least a basic education earn more, they and their children are healthier and they have the opportunity to contribute to their communities and their economies.

For me, it is also important to stand united with courageous young girls and excluded communities who are championing children’s rights to go to school without danger or discrimination. And at the heart of this petition are young girls and boys who have been attacked for simply trying to go to school.

Join us. Sign the #UpForSchool Petition.

Ben Hewitt is Director of Campaigns and Communications at A World at School.

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