This weekly column will cover a variety of contemporary global issues including climate action, global health, international peace and security and gender equality. I hope that this column will act as a platform to advocate for global progress and to empower young leaders to get involved in international affairs.
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We call upon all governments to ensure free, compulsory education all over the world for every child. We call upon all the governments to fight against terrorism and violence to protect children from brutality and harm. We call upon the developed nations to support the expansion of education opportunities for girls in the developing world.”
These are the powerful words that education advocate, Malala Yousafzai spoke at the first ever Youth Takeover of the United Nation back in 2013. Youth from around the world descended on the United Nations to take a stand on the issues that matter most to our generation and to demand that every young person have access to a proper education. Four years later, we still see education as a right that is not being met for over 57 million children who are out of school. Until we begin to recognize and acknowledge all of the global barriers that keep children from attending school, we will be unable to take effective steps towards universal access to education.
Worn, outdated textbooks are kept neatly stacked in the back of classrooms in the United Republic of Tanzania. No one can take these materials home for reference as each textbook is shared by six or more students. Workbooks, exercise sheets and other practice materials that students need to reinforce the lessons they are learning throughout the school day are in short supply. Many children in other countries across Sub-Saharan Africa are forced to squeeze into over-packed, dilapidated classrooms, where space and resources for learning are limited.
There are currently not enough teachers globally to achieve universal primary education, let alone universal secondary education. Many of the teachers who are actively working in classrooms are untrained themselves, leaving children unable to effectively learn the basics in math and reading.
Education is considered to be a universal human right. Yet 93 million children with disabilities are not even allowed to step foot inside of a school building. In some of the world’s poorest countries, nearly 95 percent of children with disabilities are denied their right to an education. Without accessible facilities and inclusive learning resources, these children are left particularly vulnerable to discrimination both inside and outside of the classroom.
Many societies fear an educated woman. When you educate a girl, everything changes. She learns to harness her voice and develop her own opinion. She gains the courage and strength to take a stand. She starts to understand the rights that she is entitled to and the rights that she has been denied. She becomes self-aware of her role in society and in the global community. She begins to think for herself.
In societies where girls have traditionally been confined to house work, it is hard for other members of the community to understand just how much impact an educated girl would have on their community. She would be independent and able to hold a job. She would not need to be married off at a young age because she would not be a financial burden to her family. She could decide for herself whether or not she desires to be a wife and/or a mother. She could be free.
It is not that children in underdeveloped countries are in any way incapable of completing school and succeeding in their educational paths. They are simply never given the opportunity or the means to do so.
Singer-songwriter Lauryn Hill put it best: “In my travels all over the world, I have come to realize that what distinguishes one child from another is not ability, but access. Access to education, access to opportunity, access to love.”