As part of this year’s Send My Friend to School Campaign pupils in the UK have been asking world leaders to ensure that there are enough professionally trained teachers for every child in the world to have a quality education.
Education is a basic human right and the quickest route out of poverty, but currently there are 57 million children missing out on school, with millions more learning in overcrowded classrooms and with unqualified teachers.
It is estimated that at least 1.7 million additional teachers are needed to achieve universal primary education by 2015, with more than one million of these teachers needed in Africa alone.
More than half a million pupils from 4,852 schools across the country have taken part in the 2013 campaign. They have created their “ideal teachers” of varying sizes and covered them in bold messages to hand to their MPs with the message: “Every Child Needs a Teacher”.
Alongside the amazing work of schools to further the campaign, an undoubted highlight this year came in London and New York when Send My Friend campaigners stood in solidarity with Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot by the Taliban last year for speaking out about girls’ rights to education.
July 12, the day of Malala’s 16th birthday, provided a focus for countries around the world to discuss the issue of global access to education and saw Malala herself deliver an historic address to the UN in New York.
In London, 60 young people from across the country gathered at the Houses of Parliament to attend a special Malala Day event.
Her speech coincided with the first ever UN Youth Takeover and the 2013 Young Ambassadors for the Send My Friend campaign and the Global Campaign for Education, Sam Whittingham and Millie Wells, from Ringwood School in Hampshire, travelled to New York to be part of it.
Sam and Millie met young campaigners from around the world and heard Malala’s historic speech, which was broadcast around the globe. Here is their report from New York...
Friday, July 12 – Malala Day
“The big day was here, Malala Day! We found our space in the queue outside the United Nations Headquarters and waited in anticipation for Malala’s first speech since the barbaric attack she suffered on October 9, 2012. We passed through security and took our seats in the Trusteeship Council Chamber.
The room was buzzing, and then, as everyone fell silent, dignitaries from the UN entered with the star of the day among them – Malala! Everyone leapt to their feet and started cheering and applauding the “bravest girl in the world”.
Malala protested against the Taliban by attending school and campaigning for girls’ education, even though they forbid it. Because of this she was shot by a Taliban gunman. Malala said: “They thought that they had silenced me, but they failed. Out of the silence came thousands of voices.”
The event was opened by Vuk Jeremic, president of the United Nations General Assembly, who quoted Nelson Mandela: “Education is the most powerful weapon to change the world.” Then UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon followed and reiterated the importance of education and the significance of young people taking over the UN.
Next Gordon Brown, the UN special envoy for global education, gave a powerful introduction to Malala’s address, on this, the occasion of her 16th birthday. He said: “You can last 30 days without food, you can last eight days without water, you can last eight minutes without air, but you can’t last a second without hope.”
There was an explosion of sound to welcome Malala to the microphone. She told us: “Malala Day is not my day. Today is the day of every woman, every girl and every boy who have raised their voice for their rights.
“There are hundreds of human rights activists and social workers who are not only speaking for human rights, but who are struggling to achieve their goals of education, peace and equality. Thousands of people have been killed by the terrorists and millions have been injured. I am just one of them.
“So here I stand. One girl among many. I speak – not for myself, but for all girls and boys. I raise up my voice – not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard.”
Malala’s speech was truly inspirational and was one of the most moving we have ever heard. She added: “We realised the value of books and pens when we saw guns.”
We feel it is impossible to convey the emotion that charged the room, but the links to both the transcript and video footage of her speech are below – let them inspire you.
This memorable speech brought all the 500 young people in the UN to their feet in long and spontaneous applause. Malala has given hope to so many, we are sure that this will be a historic turning point to finally reaching the shared goal of education for all.
In the afternoon, there were breakout sessions to support skills building. Millie spoke as part of a panel, on the advocacy work we have been doing as part of the Send My Friend to School campaign in the UK. It was good to share ideas and useful for our continued campaigns in our own countries.
Angelique Kidjo, the Beninoise singer and activist, performed at a closing ceremony and everyone danced and sang along, it was a great way to reflect and enjoy the last event of the day.
Mr Brown then ended with a powerful story about a boy called David. He said: “Written on the gravestone of a young boy in Rwanda is ‘Name: David, Age: 12, Hobby: Making people smile, Favorite sport: Football, Last words to mother: The UN is coming and will help us’. However the UN did not come and so had failed him. All young people must keep reminding world leaders that they cannot fail another child ever again.”
We hope this event is the first of many, so that our generation has a chance to influence world leaders and continue to bring international media attention to this issue. The day highlighted how much young people have to offer, with such energy and so many dynamic ideas to help get all children into education, and how much power and influence we have if we work together.” Further informationFor a transcript of Malala’s speech, see http://bit.ly/16hgV4V and for the video, go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=QRh_30C8l6Y
CAPTIONS: Education for all: (from top) Young campaigners in London for Malala Day, Sam Whittingham and Millie Wells at the UN in New York, and also meeting Gordon Brown, global education campaigner Malala Yousafzai.