Headteachers in England have renewed calls for primary education to be a worldwide universal right, following the attempted murder of Pakistani teenager and campaigner Malala Yousafzai.
The 15-year-old was shot by the Taliban last month for urging the authorities to allow every girl the chance to go to school.
The girl, who has won several peace prizes, was on her way home on a school bus in the Swat Valley in north-west Pakistan when masked men boarded the vehicle.
The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) has added its name to a petition calling on the Pakistani government to deliver a plan for education for every child, and for international organisations to ensure universal primary education is secured.
The UN’s Millennium Development Goal was for every child to complete a primary education. However, the current pace of progress means this is unlikely.
According to official figures, enrolment in primary education has continued to rise, reaching
89 per cent in the developing world in 2008. Between 1999 and 2008, enrolment rose by 18 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa, and by 11 and eight per cent in Southern Asia and Northern Africa, respectively.
About 69 million school-age children were not going to school in 2008, down from
106 million children in 1999. Almost three-quarters of children out of school are in sub-Saharan Africa (31 million) or Southern Asia (18 million).
Russell Hobby, NAHT general secretary, said: “When a tragedy such as the violent shooting of Malala Yousafzai occurs we are reminded of the struggles in other parts of the world for children to access that which we take for granted.
“It is regrettable the second Millennium Development Goal, of achieving universal primary education, is unlikely to be met by 2015. Universal education will help lift countries out of poverty and benefit the health and economy of nations as well as giving young people the opportunity to go to school.”
Malala was struck just above the back of her left eye, with the bullet travelling down the side of her jaw and damaging the skull. It went through her neck and lodged in the tissue above her shoulder blade.
A hooded Taliban militant had shouted: “Which one of you is Malala? Speak up, otherwise I will shoot you all. She is propagating against the soldiers of Allah, the Taliban. She must be punished.” She was flown to England following the attack, and treated at University Hospital, Birmingham. She is now due to have reconstructive surgery.
Mr Hobby added: “We wish Malala a full recovery and hope she is able to finish her education.”