Education makes a people easy to lead, but difficult to drive; easy to govern, but impossible to enslave.Henry Peter Brougham
Education is the most empowering force in the world. It creates knowledge, builds confidence, and breaks down barriers to opportunity.
For children, it is their key to open the door to a better life.
However, it is a sad reality of our world today that millions of children will never receive this key.
They are destined to stay locked in cycles of disadvantage and poverty.
I think Malala described this heart-wrenching situation best when she said:
“In some parts of the world, students are going to school every day. It’s their normal life. But in other parts of the world, we are starving for education … its like a precious gift. Its like a diamond”.
If we continue with our glacial pace of action, up to half of the world’s 1.6 billion children will still be out of school or failing to learn by 2030, and we would need an extra 50 years to reach our global education goals.
This cannot continue.
We can turn things around if we are prepared to step up now.
All children deserve to receive the ‘precious gift’ of education. In fact, we have promised to give it to them. It is time to deliver.
Under the Sustainable Development Goals, the blue print for progress the whole world has agreed, we are committed to give all children an inclusive and quality education by 2030.
To get the 263 million children currently out of school, back in.
To make sure the 130 million children currently reaching Grade 4 without learning basic reading and maths skills, become masters of both.
To stop girls being excluded, or married off.
Right now, one girl under 15 is married every 7 seconds. They should be starting a new year of school, not starting a new life of disadvantage.
I know this sounds a bit bleak. But we have to face up to the fact that we are in the midst of an education crisis and are running well behind on our promise to the world’s children.
No Development Without Education
Education means more than acquiring knowledge. It empowers people to develop personally and become politically active. That’s not always in the interests of rulers.
Knowledge is power – this insight is at least four centuries old, formulated by philosopher Francis Bacon during the Enlightenment. His statement has lost nothing in terms of relevance and significance: Knowledge is power, and education is the fundamental precondition for political development, democracy and social justice.
There is no development without education. The world community has long since recognized this fact and developed clear political demands and consciousness on the subject as well. The second Millennium Development Goal specified by the United Nations says that all human beings should have access to a basic education.
Two of Asia’s fastest growing economies, India and China, show that education has clear economic advantages. A third example: In the 1950s, South Korea was in worse condition than many African countries are today. Investments in equal education access for men and women, together with better health care and access to shelter, have contributed to a decrease in infant mortality rates and to an economic boom.
The lightning-fast development of the Chinese economy suggests that there has been a real hunger for education, and nearly every Chinese person under the age of 25 sees education as a key issue. It defines young people’s lives.
However, China is also an example that there are still regimes which promote more education without aiming to offer more freedom. Models of this sort will function only as long as a majority supports them.
Education Means Participation
In the long run, no illegitimate regime will be able to withstand the power of a well-educated majority. Once such a populace is in place, it opens up the possibility of greater participation and democratic change. Russia offers one example, and at least in provisional ways, China and states in the Arabic World do as well.
Countries like Zimbabwe, Afghanistan and North Korea present a much more difficult challenge. As long as the majority of citizens live in poverty and are surrounded by state propaganda, as long as this majority lacks education and the ability compare independent information, and as long people cannot network and engage in open exchanges with each other, the dictators and autocrats can feel secure. That’s reason enough to join the fight for recognizing education as a basic human right.