What a privilege, encouragement and a challenge to listen to Julia Gillard, former Prime Minister of Australia, speak at the RISING Forum, a peace conference in Coventry’s beautiful Cathedral this morning.
A privilege because we don’t often have the opportunity to listen to world leaders right here in the heart of Coventry. Especially not world leaders who speak so eloquently and with such conviction on issues which go to the heart of so much that Global Care is and does: The ability of education to transform lives and communities, and especially the far-reaching impact of educating girls.
An encouragement because Global Care works every day, through our international partners, to tackle the issues Ms Gillard discussed. To break down the barriers which prevent children from accessing education – our work with Dalit children in India, street children in Guatemala, the disability project in Rukungiri, our sponsorship programme around the world. To tackle the challenges which mean children who DO get to school receive an education of such a poor quality that they may emerge without even basic skills. Teacher training in South Sudan, preschools, extra tuition and homework clubs in Syria, Lebanon, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, excellent free schools for children in poverty in Kenya and Kolkata, the list is long and the work is effective. We should be proud of it!
But a challenge. Oh, what a challenge. The need is still huge, folks. The statistics she quoted are scary. 260 million children of school age are still not in school. 100s of millions more can only access poor quality education and emerge illiterate and innumerate. If current trends continue, by 2030 half the world’s children will enter adulthood with low skill levels, going into a jobs market demanding ever-higher levels of skill. In areas of conflict, the statistics are worse, with children twice as likely to be out of school than children in comparative communities at peace, and a huge two thirds of adolescents no longer in the classroom. Yet education helps reduce conflict – lifting the education level by just one year reduces the risk of conflict by 20%. Evidence like this means the work we are beginning in Syria is even more important in the long run, than just the obvious and immediate impact on the lives of the children included.
In a political and social space which seems ever narrower, where focus on local needs and uncertainty deafens ears to the huge needs elsewhere, where dialogue around the needs of ‘others’ is at risk of being poisoned by bigotry and fear, it was GOOD to sit in our Cathedral and take a moment to reflect on these key strategies for building a better world. Thank you RISING forum for the opportunity to be encouraged, and for the reminder that we must persevere as we still have much work to do!
Head of Communications, Global Care