Youth activists urge world leaders to act now for 175m under-fives excluded from education

A girl reads to young children in Timor-Leste (UNICEF/Bernardino Soares)

Early childhood development, Global Youth Ambassadors, Let me learn

Theirworld’s Global Youth Ambassadors will deliver a strong message to world leaders on behalf of the 175 million children under five who are missing out on crucial early childhood education. 

We’re taking four of our young campaigners to the Transforming Education Pre-Summit in Paris this week, ahead of the historic main event at the United Nations in September. 

The GYAs will hand over an open letter, calling on governments and international donors to commit to action and investment on early childhood development and pre-primary education. It has been signed by Theirworld, the Global Business Coalition for Education and several other leading organisations, including Plan International, Sesame Workshop and the LEGO Foundation. 

“Early childhood is a critical window of development. 90% of a child’s brain develops before the age of five, yet 175 million children around the world are not enrolled in pre-primary education,” says the letter. It will be delivered during the Pre-Summit to UN Secretary-General Antoñio Guterres and Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education. 

Read the full letter in PDF format or as an accessible Word document.

The message calls on domestic governments and international donors to guarantee a minimum of two years of high-quality, child-centred pre-primary education for every child. It says the Transforming Education Summit, to be held during the UN General Assembly in September, is “the moment to get things on track”. 

Watch live

See the Transforming Education Pre-Summit events and meetings as they happen from June 28 to 30. Watch here.

The open letter also urges governments to: 

  • Invest 10% of all education funding in early childhood education 
  • Support early years education and care in emergency and fragile contexts 
  • Invest in early childhood development interventions that support learning 

The Transforming Education Pre-Summit, held from today to Wednesday, June 30, will have a strong youth presence, with young activists playing a key role. The purpose of the Pre-Summit is to increase momentum and come up with a shared understanding of the key actions needed at the main Summit. 

Theirworld will be represented by four of our 2,000-strong network of Global Youth Ambassadors – Sara Gabrielli, 24, from Luxembourg; Yuv Sungkur, 22, from Mauritius; Mathilde Boulogne, 19, from France; and Elizabeth Pennington, 25, from the United Kingdom. 

Elizabeth said: “I have seen in emergency and displacement contexts how education provides more than just learning. It gives children a safe place, psychosocial support and creative play opportunities.

“That’s why Theirworld’s ask of 10% of funding to early years is so critical for delivering the services and support children need. Through steps like this we can make sure every child has the best start in life. “

Theirworld will host a side event today – the Pre-Summit’s Global Engagement Day – called “Investing Early: Transforming Early Childhood Education”. 

We will also be at the main Transforming Education Summit in New York, where we’ll be sharing the passionate views of GYAs and others with international decision-makers. 

To gather those opinions, Theirworld recently launched a youth survey to ask what our young campaigners and others aged 16 to 30 across the world think and feel about education, their future, the effects of the pandemic on learning, and what actions they want leaders to take. Some of those taking part are teenagers currently out of school. 

You can add your voice. 

More news

See all news