Youth Advocacy Group’s Sumaya Saluja: Help us give every child an education

Up for School or #upforschool campaign

A World at School hosted the #UpForSchool Petition and the September Forum in New York during the United Nations General Assembly. In a week-long series, four of our Global Youth Ambassadors and a member of the Youth Advocacy Group are writing blogs about their experiences while attending these and other events.

MONDAY: Bamine Boye, Sierra Leone. TUESDAY: Munira Khalif, USA. WEDNESDAY: Beyan Pewee, Liberia. THURSDAY: Sumaya Saluja, India. FRIDAY: Alexandria Fitzgerald, USA


By Sumaya Saluja, a member of Global Education First Initiative's Youth Advocacy Group from India

The UN Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative celebrated its second anniversary last week in New York, at a high-level event in the margins of the United Nation’s General Assembly. As the youth speaker, representing the Youth Advocacy Group and millions of young people who have spoken out for education, I had a lot I wanted to say.

Since its launch in Sept 2012, the initiative has rallied actors to work towards achieving its three goals of ensuring every child is in school, promoting quality of education and fostering global citizens. The two-hour event brought together partners and supporters from governments, civil society, bilateral and multilateral organisations to provide their thoughts corresponding to the title Quality Education for the World We Want.

A prime highlight included the presence and remarks from the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, who emphasised the need for a shift in attitudes towards girls as a vital step in achieving universal primary (and secondary) education.

However, as youth leaders we were also attending aware of the current statistics – that the number of out-of-school children has risen from 57 million to 58 million, while resources towards making universal primary education for all boys and girls (Millennium Development Goal 2) have declined.

It was against this backdrop that I based my intervention on sharing the disappointment felt by our peers, emphasising the current urgency for immediate action, and highlighting the leadership actions that youth have been taking around the world for education.

Speaking at the tail end of the event on behalf of the Youth Advocacy Group, I stressed the need for us as a movement to be critical and reflective of our progress, reminding ourselves of the magnitude of what is left to achieve. By reiterating the unequivocal global call for quality education and learning, I emphasised the need to achieve the goals agreed on in 2000 – without which, I argued, there can hardly be credibility for the post-2015 agenda.

While most of the other speakers were focused on goals set for the next 15 years, I was trying to remind this high-level gathering that urgent work needs to be done now to achieve the current goal of getting every child into school.

As representatives of a global youth movement, we know that goals are not to be met by huge promises made by a few but the magnification of small steps made by all. We are committed to concrete action.

Leading up to the event, hundreds of youth gathered in New York to launch our new global petition – the #UpForSchool Petition. It’s a simple ask to world leaders to give education the priority we have been calling for. We hope to make this the biggest petition in history – so that governments and other actors can no longer ignore our voices. So they can know we want action now.

We hope you can join us make history and give every child the hope that education brings.


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