Swindon school campaigns for education equality
By Jessica Durston - 11 August 2021
Students from Swindon's Commonweal school visited London for the Global Partnership for Education event, hosted by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Year 12 student Stella George and Year 11 students Stephen Obure and Joey Pugh, who are all involved in the Send My Friend to School campaign, took a trip to the capital for the event.
Send My Friend to School is a UK civil society coalition of international development NGOs, teachers’ unions and charities. It brings together young people, politicians, teachers, civil society and the media in join campaigning to demand quality education for all children across the globe.
Covid-19 is estimated to be interrupting education for millions of children around the world. Experts fear many may never return to school after the pandemic.
Education is also being interrupted by the climate crisis. Flooded schools, heat-exhausted pupils and monsoon damaged classrooms all place children’s rights, safety and education under threat. An estimated 258 million children were missing out on school even before the pandemic struck.
The poorest and most marginalised children – girls, refugees, children with disabilities, and children affected by conflict - are said to be much less likely to be in school and learning.
A spokesperson for the school said: "The main reason why children around the world aren’t able to go to school is simply because the world isn’t spending enough on education. This isn't a new problem and there's a big risk that the impact of the pandemic will made it even worse for millions of children."
The students took a day out of their summer holiday to attend the summit.
The event, hosted by Boris Johnson and Uhuru Kenyatta, the president of Kenya, was attended by several other African Heads of State, former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and education ministers from across the world. The students said they had a very exciting day and it allowed them to understand how these global decisions are made, and how change happens.
The students had a meeting with Helen Grant, the Prime Minister's Special Envoy for Girl's Education. The organisers describe the summit as a success, raising $4bn (about £2.89bn) towards global education.
Lottie O'Brien, Head of Global Learning at Commonweal School, said: "Having young people involved in campaigns like this allows them to understand how powerful their voices are, and that they are all able to stand up for what they believe in and be a part of making the word the way they want it to be.
"I am immensely proud of our confident and articulate students who are able to challenge politicians and put forward their views. There is a stereotype that young people are not interested in such things, but hopefully this helps to dispel that misconception and inspire other young people to stand up for what they care about."
The Swindon students will continue their work by launching assemblies in September for Commonweal, and also offering them to local primary schools to raise awareness of the issue. Their aim is to get more young people across Swindon to Raise their Hand for Education. They are also planning to attend the political Party Conferences and COP26 in Glasgow to highlight the impact climate change has impacting education.
A spokesperson for the Send My Friend to School campaign said: “There has not been a time in living memory when the need to invest in education has been more acute. We welcome the strong commitments made by Developing Country Partners to help deliver this investment through domestic financing, setting forth a path to a brighter future for every child in the process.
“However, this level of ambition has not been matched by donor governments, including the UK. While today’s announcement of $4bn raised for the Global Partnership for Education is positive, it is $1bn short of what was urgently required.
“The UK, as co-host, had a responsibility to help secure a successful replenishment by reaching GPE’s overall target of $5 billion. This commitment was reaffirmed by government representatives just two weeks ago. Yet as co-host, the UK delivered a pledge way short of what was needed, slashed its aid to education by at least 25%, and became the only G7 government to cut ODA during an unprecedented global crisis. The impact of this on the million’s of girls, children with disabilities, and other learners at greatest risk of being left behind will be devastating.
“Time and again the UK Government has reaffirmed its commitment to girls’ education, but rhetoric carries with it a responsibility to deliver. At a time when global cooperation is crucial, by cutting aid to education and missing GPE’s $5bn target, the UK Government has undermined its credibility on the global stage and impaired its ability to leverage others. The UK Government will need to change course as it seeks to deliver on its promise of 12 years of quality education for every child.
“Donor governments, including the UK, need to step up with funding that reflects and responds to the scale and urgency of children’s needs. We hope the UK Government will heed this call for action: now is not the time to shy away from the challenge of education financing but rather to throw the book at it.”
"Education can be powerful and transformative for individual children and their families, and whole communities and countries around the world.
"Education can provide stability to children who are displaced, open up paths out of poverty, reduce the likelihood of conflict, contribute to a healthy planet and is vital for long-term growth. Education is critical for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. By calling on world leaders to make education a priority we aim to unleash the power of education and ensure that no child is left behind."