Youth activists tell UN chief: make the impossible possible and get millions of children into school

Gyas Hand Iffed Petition To Antonio Guterres Watched By Gordon Brown
António Guterres, watched by Gordon Brown, is presented with the petition by Global Youth Ambassadors Ousmane Ba, Asmita Ghimire and Lian Wairimu Kariuki (Theirworld)

Barriers to education, Education funding, Girls' education, Global Youth Ambassadors, Right to education, Sustainable Development Goals, The Education Commission

Global Youth Ambassadors delivered a petition signed by an incredible 1.5 million people to António Guterres, calling for a new international funding plan for education.

Three young campaigners carried the hopes and futures of millions of children in their hands today at a special meeting with the head of the United Nations.

Theirworld’s Global Youth Ambassadors were at the UN headquarters in New York to deliver messages from 1.5 million people who are backing a new global funding plan for education.

They told UN Secretary-General António Guterres that action must be taken to launch the International Finance Facility for Education (IFFEd) – which can unlock an extra $10 billion of spending a year to help marginalised children get into school. 

The Global Youth Ambassadors said: “On behalf of 1.5 million young people, we present the IFFED petition. The message from all the youth is to make the impossible possible.”

Guterres thanked the Global Youth Ambassadors – part of a network of more than 700 activists in over 80 countries – for delivering the massive IFFEd petition. He said: “Education needs to be able to address the needs of today but also the future.

“So the investment in education is absolutely crucial. The International Finance Facility is a chance to fill the gap that exists. It will not replace anything or compete with anything.

Global Youth Ambassador Shows The Iffed Petition Book To António Guterres


“My strong appeal is for the international community to fully back it and be involved in it.”

He said the petition “comes from the will of the young people who want to have the chance to build a future for themselves.” 

There has been growing international support for IFFEd. As well as the UN, the World Bank, Regional Development Banks and an increasing number of countries are backing the plan that would get 20 million children into school in its initial stage.

The Global Youth Ambassadors who met Guterres were Lian Wairimu Kariuki, a passionate education, youth and women’s empowerment advocate from Kenya; Ousmane Ba, a champion for girls’ education and children’s rights from Sierra Leone; and Asmita Ghimire who campaigns for female empowerment and youth skills in Nepal.

Shakira also sent a personal message of thanks today to the youth activists and campaigners who signed the petition. The singer and education champion has been a driving force behind IFFEd, which the world’s most powerful countries promised to act on at last year’s G20 summit.

Shakira is a member of the Education Commission that was tasked with coming up with big ideas to tackle the global education crisis. Its Learning Generation report in 2016 proposed setting up IFFEd, which would work in much the same way as a new funding approach in the 2000s helped to ensure that massive vaccination schemes saved the lives of millions of children. 

Watch Shakira's message

In its initial stage, the aim of IFFEd is to get 20 million children into school.

Theirworld has been working with the organisations BRAC and Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) and the campaigning website Avaaz to collect the 1.5 million signatures.

Kakar Hayat Hamandzai – a Global Youth Ambassador from Pakistan – gathered over 20,000 signatures on his own. He said: “I have travelled from city to city, district to district, community to community to collect the signatures and carry our message of education for every child.”

After the Global Youth Ambassadors met Guterres, UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown gave a briefing on the need to establish IFFEd.

More than 260 million children and youth are currently out of school and many millions drop out before they even reach secondary school. If this doesn’t change, by 2030 over half the world’s children and young people – 825 million of them – will not have the basic skills or qualifications needed for the modern workforce.

World Bank Failngs Education 3

Millions of children around the world are missing out on a quality education (World Bank Photo)

IFFEd would make aid more effective by leveraging and maximising the impact of donor resources through the World Bank and regional development banks.

Brown said: “The International Finance Facility for Education, that the Secretary-General has endorsed today, has the support of the United Nations, the World Bank and the Regional Development Banks. It is backed by the addition today of 1.5 million signatures to our already 10-million strong petition. Now 11.5 million young people are demanding change.”

Brown said IFFEd could give children a quality education, tackle illiteracy and help to end child marriage, child labour, trafficking and discrimination against girls. It will also work towards the goal of giving every child a quality education by 2030 – including pre-primary education.

Brown added: “Under our proposal every $1 billion in aid can deliver $4 billion of new educational investment – making aid even more cost effective and best value for money.”

Luis Moreno, President of the Inter-American Development Bank, said: “We cannot wait. The purpose of this fund is to accelerate the possibility of not losing a generation.”

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