The Number 61 Million
The sound “Malala” vibrates in ears and voices across the globe. Her name has become attached to multiple new initiatives: notably, the Malala Foundation and the Malala Education & Anti-Poverty Institute. And a petition launched by former British PM, Gordon Brown, the special Envoy for Education. These initiatives work to highlight and secure education for the children who, unlike Malala, are only attached to a statistic: the number 61 million.
Gordon Brown announced November 10 as Malala Day when he presented the petition to the Pakistan government with 1 million signatures from around the world, and matched by 1 million names from within Pakistan.
Consequent to this visit a few weeks ago, the government in Pakistan announced new strategies to get 5 million children (comprised of 2 million boys and 3 million girls) into school by announcing FREE universal primary education and to DOUBLE SPENDING on education to 4% of the budget.
Mr. Brown has stated that five months of intensive in-country work with the Pakistan government, civil authorities and foundations, as well as international organizations, lie ahead to ensure a detailed budget plan.
A deadline for the final draft of this accelerated budget is set for April 2013 when Gordon Brown and the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, President of the World Bank Jim Kim, alongside the heads of major international agencies such as UNESCO, UNICEF, UNDP, UNFPA and the Global Partnership for Education, will meet in Washington with the Ministers of Education and Finance of Pakistan.
Calls for universal education continue to multiply exponentially as the sound of Malala’s name echoes in kitchens, offices, schools- in corners of rooms, bouncing off halls and hilltops. Another 100,000 signatures from out-of-school Pakistani children are the start of yet another one million-strong petition, this time from the children themselves demanding their own right to school.
However, Gordon Brown’s initiative is not specific to Pakistan. The number 61 million is a statistic that many people living in America, Spain, or Australia don’t know the meaning of. Brown’s initiative focuses on the 61 million children around the world who are shut out of schooling for various reasons.
A report from UNESCO, the Education for All Global Monitoring Report
helps us understand the complexities the world faces in delivering that right to 61 million children, and monitors progress towards Education for All (referred to as EFA).
After reading the report, what’s so devastating about the case in Pakistan is that Mingora has educational resources: the schools are there. The report makes clear that many villages and urban areas suffer from other factors that inhibit education, like malnutrition or resource scarcity. The efforts of the Taliban to damage existing institutions and structures -to destroy a working system- are even more infuriating after reading comparative data that list countries and regions with no systems or existing resources.
Education brings hope: it allows people to transcend socio-economic circumstances. As an instrument of hope, education is most threatening to the Taliban, an organisation who can only thrive on despair.
Pakistan leaders vow to get five million children into classes by 2015; Gordon Brown has made calls to ensure that we hold these leaders to account for their promises.
We’ll continue to watch Pakistan during this time; it’s early yet to celebrate new promises with a pending election due in April next year. But this is the start. Governments are watching lists and lists and lists of names attaching themselves to Malala’s petition.
Lend your name to support her and 61 million others