As we described in our blog a few weeks ago, there is currently an education emergency in Pakistan keeping 25 million children from receiving an education, 7 million of whom will never even finish primary school. The March for Education campaign vowed to make March the month where Pakistan focused on nothing but education and they succeeded!
With the support of people like our readers who signed their petition to global leaders to end the education emergency in Pakistan, they were able to get the topic at the top of the political agenda. In his first visit to Pakistan last week, Prime Minister David Cameron alongside Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani announced the UK is dedicated to a new program of assistance to put 4 million Pakistani children into school by 2015, to train 90,000 new teachers, and to provide 6 million textbooks. You can see footage of the announcement on the Independent's website.
This is a huge win for the Pakistan Education Task Force’s campaign and shows the power of our voices when we band together to help end the issues stemming from extreme poverty. Thank you to all of you who helped make this possible.
However, there is still much to be accomplished in this battle to end the education problems Pakistan is experiencing. They still need more people to sign the petition to continue putting pressure on other global leaders to join Pakistan and the UK in building the education system. 4 million children in school by 2015 is a huge step in the right direction, but that still leaves 21 million children without the chance to attend school.
Let’s keep the momentum going and get even more support behind this campaign so we can make sure no child is left without an education and the chance for a bright future.
When I was in primary school, I remember enjoying school so much that I couldn’t wait for each new day. I loved learning exciting new things and being able to socialise with my friends in and out of the classroom during the school day. Once I was back at home, I couldn’t wait to share all the fascinating things I learned with my parents and quiz them to see if they were as smart as I was.
“But Mommy, did you know that Neil Armstrong was the first person to set foot on the moon?”
Of course I was slightly bitter when I discovered that although my mother was impressed by my knowledge, in fact she had also heard of Mr. Armstrong’s achievements.
Unfortunately, there are 7 million children in Pakistan who don’t get the chance to have these conversations with their parents at the end of the day, because they aren’t able to attend primary school. 3 million of them will never even see the inside of a classroom.
That means that of the world’s 67 million out-of-school children we discussed last week, roughly 1 in 10 of them live in Pakistan. And for those children who are in school, many of them suffer through overcrowded classrooms, dilapidated facilities, brutal or careless teachers and an overall failing education system.
The Pakistan Education Task Force has deemed this an “education emergency” and is working to ensure that March is the month that Pakistan talks about nothing but education. Well, and cricket.
They have launched the March for Education campaign to ring the alarm on the emergency and work to bring adequate education to all children in Pakistan. The campaign has marked 2011 as Pakistan’s Year of Education to create a national debate with these topics at the top of the political agenda.
The March for Education website has a series of 1-minute videos describing the different issues that are creating this education emergency in Pakistan. They range from accessibility for poor families to a limited number of teachers.
However, you might be surprised to know that money is not what’s holding them back from achieving universal primary education. There are currently 26 countries poorer than Pakistan that send more of their children to primary school.
This is an issue of priorities. If the world is serious about achieving education for all by 2015, we have to make education a priority.
Let’s speak up as a global community to let our leaders know that every child in Pakistan deserves the opportunity to go to school and to learn in a safe and conducive environment, and that the time to act is now.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
– Nelson Mandela
At the beginning of March, UNESCO released its 2011 Education for All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report to evaluate the current climate of global education. The report reveals that despite some individual country gains, we are still way off track to reaching universal primary education by 2015.
Although the number of out-of-school children in 2008 reduced to 67 million, down from 72 million the previous year, we still have a long way to go in just 4 years if we want to meet the second millennium development goal of universal primary education.
This short video and the report describe how one of the biggest barriers currently keeping 42% of those children out of school is violent conflict. The video focuses on the struggles of the education systems in Colombia, Jordan, and the Congo, describing how displacement, violence, and intimidation keep many children out of the classroom.
Twelve years is the average duration of violent conflict episodes in low-income countries, forcing some children to miss their entire primary education and many to have only sporadic schooling.
It’s easy to think there’s nothing we can do to support education in conflict-affected regions, but the EFA report proves that there are many things we can do, and that we should start immediately.
Aid for Education
Education currently only accounts for 2% of all humanitarian aid. That leaves twenty-one developing countries spending more on arms than on primary schools, which is unacceptable if we claim to value education.
According to the EFA Highlights of the report, it would take just six days of military spending by rich countries to close the USD$16 billion Education for All external financing gap. Despite claims by OECD countries that achieving universal primary education by 2015 is a major priority, just 38% of aid requests for education are met, which is around half the average for all sectors.
Speak up for Education
We need to get more good aid into the education sector in conflict-affected countries if we want to help the 28 million children currently out of school to obtain the education they so desperately desire.
You can join people like the Global Campaign for Education to help put pressure on governments to keep their promise to support education for all.
We’ve already had some major wins, seeing 52 million children enrolled in primary school from 1999 to 2008, but we need to pick up the pace if we want to reach the remaining 67 million by 2015.
On 19-22 March 2011, the world will come together to promote global water and sanitation rights for The World Walks for Water. As we’ve discussed previously, there are currently 884 million people lacking access to clean water, and 2.6 billion who don’t have a safe toilet. This means that 4,000 children die every day from diarrhoea contracted from contaminated water, 3,000 of which are in Africa alone.
The World Walks for Water is asking us all to walk 6 kilometres to stand in solidarity with those in developing countries who have to walk that distance each day just to access water. And even then the water is often dirty.
But this global event is about more than just bringing awareness to this devastating issue. The walk will also demand that politicians in the North and the South keep their promises and step up their efforts to ensure water and sanitation for all people, everywhere.
This effort is particularly essential in the UK where the Department for International Development’s (DFID) announcement recently of their aid review revealed that they are not making water and sanitation a priority.
WaterAid described in their newsroom that “in promising to provide access to drinking water and improved sanitation to an equivalent number to the population of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland over the next four years, the [UK] Government is set to reach only one percent of the world's poorest people without access to these basic human rights."
We need to continue pressuring our governments to accept that aid for these issues would provide a huge return on investment - for every £1 invested in water and sanitation, £8 is returned in economic returns through increased productivity (UNDP) and would prevent up to 1.4 million child deaths every year (UNICEF).
Join the Walk
You can still sign up to organise your own Walk for Water or you can join a walk in your area. Together this month we can help motivate others to take action in achieving a world where no one goes without clean water and adequate sanitation.
Do you want to know how buying a cotton shirt and a chocolate bar could help end extreme poverty? It’s simple.
This short clip describes the many benefits of fair trade and what you can do to get involved with Fairtrade Fortnight, currently running until 13 March. Fairtrade Fortnight 2011 was launched this week alongside the announcement that sales of Fairtrade products in the UK has soared to £1.17 billion, up from £836 million in 2009.
Buying Fairtrade products helps give 7.5 million people in the developing world a more secure future. These purchases ensure farmers and workers in developing countries receive fair and sustainable wages with decent working conditions so they have the means to pull themselves out of poverty.
Fairtrade Fortnight 2011 is encouraging everyone to “show off your Fairtrade label” to spread the word about Fairtrade and the benefits it creates. You can attend a public Fairtrade Event from chocolate and wine tasting evenings to tea dances and debates, or there’s still time to create your own event!
Whatever you decide to do this Fairtrade Fortnight, remember that these simple steps you can take will benefit millions of people living in poverty around the world and help to change lives with every pound spent on Fairtrade.