Education: A transformative force worldwide

Education can change lives, lift families from poverty and transform communities. It is a civil right—a human right.  We demonstrate our belief in this principle every day, as professionals who devote our careers to connecting with students and helping them discover their talents.

During Global Action Week for Education, April 22-28, the NEA joins organizations and citizens across the world in calling on nations to ensure that children and adults have access to a high-quality public education.

The Global Campaign for Education (GCE), a civil society movement working to end the global education crisis, sponsors Global Action Week every year. The focus this year is on holding nations accountable for achieving the “17 Goals to Transform Our World” that many countries (including the United States) adopted at a special United Nations Summit in 2015.

The goals include calling on nations to “ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning.”

To help hold the United States accountable, the Global Campaign for Education-U.S. is training young people to become youth advocacy leaders. They will learn about the legislative process and gain skills in advocacy, coalition building and grassroots organizing.

They will also have the opportunity to come to Washington, D.C. this June for the GCE-U.S. Advocacy Summit. If you know young people ages 18 to 25 who would be powerful voices for quality education worldwide, encourage them to apply.

This has already been an impressive year of student activism. We have seen the power students have to advocate for the safety of school communities and pressure lawmakers to make commonsense changes to gun laws. Students were the force behind the March for Our Lives, which brought half a million people to D.C. and drew hundreds of thousands to similar marches across the country. The movement even garnered support from students in other countries, including Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland, where student organizations issued a joint statement.

We must do much more to ensure that public schools and colleges all over the globe have the resources to provide a high-quality education to everyone. Meeting this goal is even tougher in countries hit by war or natural disaster.

Education Cannot Wait, launched by several organizations and nations, is the world’s first global movement dedicated to providing education in emergencies and protracted crises. One in 4 of the world’s school-aged children and youth—approximately 75 million students—lives in a country affected by crisis.

In regions decimated by conflict or natural disaster, “education is generally the first service interrupted and the last resumed.” We witnessed this ourselves when Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria tore through Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Parts of Puerto Rico and the U.S.V.I. still have not recovered—and the 2018 hurricane season begins across the Caribbean in June.

When crisis overtakes education, students’ chances of completing primary school drop by almost a third; their chances drop by half when they are refugees. Being out of school creates its own risks, including increasing the likelihood of child labor and child trafficking, including child prostitution.

A recent Washington Post article makes painfully clear the impact of crisis on education. Makenzie Danna, a 16-year-old from Congo, talks about her circumstances since her country’s civil war came roaring back to life. Arsonists destroyed her village in February and she now lives in a Ugandan refugee camp with no schools.

“I had been in school for almost two years back in Congo. I might have wanted to be a nurse, or a teacher, but no matter what, I wanted to learn English. Maybe I won’t ever go to school again,” Makenzie said.

As a global community, we have to do much more for students, wherever they are. The future of our world depends on it.

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