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Global Action Week 2004: 19 -25 April


Missing an Education, the World’s Biggest Lobby

Around the world, children spoke out on their right to education. Their voices were heard in national parliaments/legislatures, in state assemblies and in village councils. During the Global Action Week 2004,the objective was to make it impossible for our leaders to ignore the millions of children who are missing out on education.

Politicians were pressurised to provide more money and political leadership in order to get all children, everywhere, into schools. To do that, a Big Lobby by children for children was organised. Like a town meeting in the USA, an imbizo in Southern Africa, or a panchayat in India, a lobby is simply an occasion when those who hold power have to listen to the concerns of the people. The lobby is a chance for millions of children to voice their right to a free, quality education … and ask politicians what they will do to make that right a reality.

Global March Against Child Labour, through its involvement in Global Action Week, sent a message to the world that millions of child labourers are missing an education.

The Global March mobilised its worldwide network of partners for the Global Action Week, maintaining a strong link in all activities between the fulfilment of the EFA(Education For All) goals and the need to tackle child labour. A clear message was sent to the world that children work because they are not in school, and children are missing an education because they are working: without EFA we will never end child labour and, correspondingly, without the elimination of child labour the world will never achieve EFA.

The Global March demanded that Governments and the International community fulfil their pledges as set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to ensure that all children are not engaged in work that interferes with their schooling.

Of course, we also demanded that Governments ratify and fully implement Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour and also the 138 Convention on the Minimum Age of Admission into Employment. In particular, through advocating for the universal implementation and ratification of the Convention 138, with its focus on the minimum age of employment being no less than that of compulsory education, or of 15 years, we will able to send a strong call for the elimination of child labour and education for all children.

So through Global Action Week,2004, Global March Against Child Labour aimed to:

  • Highlight the critical role that child labour plays in the millions of children “missing an education"
  • Empower child advocates to speak out against the denial of children’s right to education
  • Create advocacy tools through “missing maps” to be utilised throughout the GAW and beyond
  • Strengthen child labour organisations in their networking capacity in national coalitions on education
  • Children missing an education

More than 100 million children – most of them girls – don’t go to primary school at all. 44 million of the world’s out-of-school children live in Africa, 32 million live in South and West Asia and 14 million live in East Asia.

One third of all children, and one in two in Africa, never complete 5 years of primary school – the minimum length of education needed to achieve basic literacy.

More than 140 million young people, ages 15-24, are entering adulthood illiterate. 83 million of these illiterate young people live in South and West Asia, 30 million live in Africa, and 13 million live in the Arab States.

These children are missing an education for many reasons.

Costs of schooling:The cost of education is too high for poor parents; in many poor countries it can cost a month’s wages or more to send one child to a government primary school. When school fees were abolished in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Malawi, the enrolments of children got doubled or tripled. Yet at least 101 countries are still charging fees for primary education and even when there is no school fees, other costs such as uniforms and books.

Discrimination against girls and women:The majority of out-of-school children are female. In Africa and South Asia, there are 14 million fewer girls than boys in primary school.

Disability: Many countries do not provide any help for children with disabilities to attend school.

HIV-AIDS: In Africa and parts of Asia, AIDS is forcing children to drop out of scho0ol – either because they have lost their parents, because they have to stay home and care for sick relatives, or because they have to work to help the family survive. In some cases, authorities even force AIDS orphans out of school because of the prejudice and stigma surrounding the disease.

Conflict: Wars and civil strife destroy communities and uproot children. Refugees frequently get no access to education.

Poor quality: Classrooms often lack the basic tools for learning, such as books, desks and, most importantly, properly trained teachers. Class sizes may be very large, or the school day may last only 2 or 3 hours. In these circumstances, even children who do attend school may still be missing an education, since they are unlikely to acquire functional literacy skills.

Lack of relevance: Some governments insist that all schools conform to a rigid academic format that is out of touch with local cultures, languages and livelihoods. In this case, schooling may pose as a threat to cherished ways of life.

Child labour: Of all the reasons that children are missing an education, child labour is the single biggest reason.

A large number of children are not going to school because of their involvement in some form of child labour. However, this is a two-way process and while child labour is a barrier to education, lack of educational opportunities can also lead to child labour. Inadequacies in schools in terms of poor infrastructure or teaching quality discourage very poor families (who have to make a massive investment in their child’s education) from sending their children to school. This leaves children ‘idle”, leading to vulnerability to economic exploitation.

Activities:The Worlds Biggest Lobby

The main coordinated international activity for the GAW 2004 was the World’s Biggest lobby. There were three types of activity that count towards being involved in the lobby, and in which the Global March partners actively took part :

1.'National Lobby' – Across the globe on 20th April children went to their national parliament, legislature or assembly and voiced their concerns and opinions on education. Events also took place across different states and provincial legislatures. The National Lobby focused on children lobbying their Government Representatives. The event gave children a chance to tell their elected representatives, in their own words, why children don’t get an education and what must be done about it.

2. ‘Politicians Go Back To School’ – Throughout the Action Week politicians were invited to visit a local school, education centre or community organisation during the week – so that they could speak with children and find out more about the state of education.

3. ‘Send A Message To The President’ - Mass mailings of messages from people about the importance of educating every girl and boy were sent to their respective Presidents or Prime Ministers throughout Action Week.

The Missing Out Map’

The Global March focused a large amount of energy for GAW 2004 to carry out “Missing Maps” activities. These maps mapped the out- of -school children within communities. The process of mapping was participatory, with groups of children and adults utilising their shared knowledge of their community to draw-up a map of children missing an education, the map also identified what activities were children involved in instead of an education, for example, if a child is not in school they may be in child labour, or helping the family with domestic chores, etc

The community also “mapped” out the specific problems within that community that prevented children from attending school, for instance it might be that the school lacked basic facilities, or that the school was too far away for some children. Once this knowledge was accumulated it was possible for the community to assess what was needed within their locality and community to ensure more children are able to attend school, hence translating into communities designing their own plan of action to get all children into schools and thus demand accountability and action.

Classroom activity pack

By adapting the classroom activity pack that GCE supplied, teachers helped kids in the North to find out about why their peers in poorer countries don’t get an education. Teachers also arranged an exchange of letters and pictures with a sister school in the developing world.