|Devli Kumari, 11, a former child labourer from India, speaks at the launch of the ‘Education for All: Class of 2015’ campaign during a high-level meeting held during the UN General Assembly session in New York.|
By Roshni Karwal
NEW YORK, USA, 26 September 2008 – Devli Kumari, now 11, came a long way from a stone quarry in India, where she grew up as a child labourer, to United Nations headquarters in New York, where she spoke at the launch of an ‘Education for All’ campaign during the General Assembly session this week.
Devli told her story yesterday to a rapt audience that included UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan, UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman, pop stars Bono and Bob Geldof, and other dignitaries attending the high-level event.
Together with her family, Devli said, she worked for many gruelling hours under harsh conditions every day. She was often beaten and received no access to education.
“I didn’t know what else was in the world,” she recalled. “I had never even seen paper until I was rescued four years ago, and it was then I first went to school. Now, I want to be able to read and write. I want to be a teacher when I grow up.”
Renewed funding commitments
|H.M. Queen Rania of Jordan greets Australian PM Kevin Rudd as UK PM Gordon Brown looks on at the ‘Education for All’ event. At left: European Commission President Jose Manuel Barosso and Global Campaign for Education President Kailash Satyarthi.|
Devli may well achieve her teaching dream. As she spoke, a group of government and private-sector partners were making a pledge of $4.5 billion to help educate some 15 million children worldwide over the next three years. The partners are participants in, ‘Education for All: Class of 2015’, the campaign launched during yesterday’s event.
The pledge came from corporations such as Intel, Microsoft and Cisco, civic and sports associations such as FIFA, charities, faith groups and the Governments of Australia, France, Norway, Spain, Saudi Arabia, the European Union and the United Kingdom.
“I have had the privilege of visiting so many countries, where in very place I have seen the case for education – not just as a matter of social justice and not just as an economic necessity, but as the right that every child should have as a human being,” said Mr. Brown.
‘We cannot afford to fail’
At the UN Millennium Summit in 2000, world leaders pledged to ensure universal primary education by 2015. But eight years later, the world as a whole is not on track to achieve this Millennium Development Goal.
|© UNICEF video|
|UNICEF Executive Director Ann. M. Veneman attends the 'Education for All: Class of 2015' campaign launch at UN headquarters, held as part of the 63rd General Assembly in New York.|
Among the remaining challenges: Some 75 million children are still not enrolled in primary school; over a third of students who are enrolled drop out before completing their primary education; and there is a global shortage of teachers.
Education leaders agree that the goal is achievable, but much more needs to be done to reach the MDG target.
“Schools don’t just build lives, they save lives,” said Queen Rania. “Our deadline of 2015 is feasible. It is also indispensable and also non-negotiable. It is a test we cannot afford to fail.”
Commitment to education
UNICEF, one of the five agencies convening the ‘Education for All’ campaign, has steadily increased its commitment to this goal in recent years.
|Musician-activists Bono and Bob Geldof lend their support to the ‘Education for All’ campaign launch.|
UNICEF’s programmes focus on ensuring the right to quality education for all girls and boys, eliminating gender disparities in education, restoring learning in emergency situations and helping to rebuild education systems in post-crisis transition countries.
“We have to build on this momentum, on the conviction that education can drive economic and social progress,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement presented at the ‘Education for All’ event. “With an education, people flourish. Without, they remain trapped in poverty.”
Earlier in the day, UNICEF’s Executive Director attended another high-level event – this one addressing the global malaria crisis. With support from UNICEF, she noted, 15 countries across sub-Saharan Africa have shown at least a five-fold increase in bed net coverage since 2000. At the same event, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged $168 million to develop next-generation malaria vaccines. The World Bank also committed $1 billion to boost the fight against malaria.
Listen to a Voice of America programme with UNICEF Chief of Education Dr. Cream Wright discussing 'Education for All' in Africa.
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