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Post Bin Laden's Death: Charlie Wilson's Real War


Osama bin Laden's death is a pivot point for Pakistan.  Just as the 'Arab Spring' is bringing about greater democracy and freedoms in North Africa and the Arab world, the decline of Al Qaeda and its ideology must be used to open up new wells of opportunity in Pakistan.  This is especially true in the field of education. Consider this sobering fact: of the 67 million children who miss out on schooling, 25 million of them live in Pakistan. It is impossible to comprehend the cost to that country in economic and social terms of this education emergency.  Above all, it is a moral travesty.  

Even though the vast majority of its citizens love peace and yearn for stability, it is neither a coincidence nor a surprise that Pakistan has become a haven for extremists.  When educational and economic opportunity is beyond reach because the state is failing generation after generation of children, radicalism and fear of the outside always finds a home.  

Bin Laden's death is a moment of reckoning for the small number of extremists who remain wedded to jihadist ideology that would repress women and girls and trample on human freedoms.   It is clear that their hate-filled ideas offer no solution to the millions living in poverty in Muslim countries.  The death of Osama Bin Laden doesn't mean the end of terrorism -- not by a long shot -- but it surely offers leaders and citizens the chance to imagine and build a future that does away with terrorism.  

In places like Indonesia, people have discovered how extending the reach of opportunity can help build more productive, healthier and happier communities.  As we wrote about here, Australia invests millions every year in helping the Indonesian Government build schools and colleges because both countries understand that peace in the region benefits from more open minds and fewer clenched fists.  

But look at Pakistan, which receives billions in military aid each year to help it fight terrorism, far more than it receives in grants to build classrooms.  Let's hope the people of Pakistan make the most of recent events and stand up for a reversal of such wrong-headed priorities.  The question today is: will the people and government of Pakistan take hold of the moment?  


Children Standing Up for Children


Most of us probably don’t know that in 1989 the United Nations passed the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) that gave special protection and rights to all children around the world under the age of 18. It became the most agreed human rights convention ever and stressed the responsibility of every adult to make these rights a reality.

This means that for the past 20+ years, every young person under 18, regardless of what country they live in, has possessed the legal right to a good standard of living, clean drinking water, nutritious food, health care, education and even the right to relax and play. Yet despite this convention, children’s rights in developing countries often get pushed to the bottom of the political agenda and forgotten by society.

That’s why the Global Poverty Project has teamed up with Plan Australia to make this short clip to raise awareness about the rights of children so that we can all make sure these rights are protected and our governments deliver on their promises to honor them. Our presenters will soon be taking out this message to schoolkids across Australia to show them what their rights are and why they should help stand up for other children who are being denied these rights in developing countries around the world.

Click here to sign up for a presentation at your school.

Posted by Ashli Alberty in Education, Poverty for column Issue Analysis on Apr 28th 2011, 08:41

Update on Pakistan's Education Emergency


As we described in our blog a few weeks ago, there is currently an education emergency in Pakistan keeping 25 million children from receiving an education, 7 million of whom will never even finish primary school. The March for Education campaign vowed to make March the month where Pakistan focused on nothing but education and they succeeded!

With the support of people like our readers who signed their petition to global leaders to end the education emergency in Pakistan, they were able to get the topic at the top of the political agenda. In his first visit to Pakistan last week, Prime Minister David Cameron alongside Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani announced the UK is dedicated to a new program of assistance to put 4 million Pakistani children into school by 2015, to train 90,000 new teachers, and to provide 6 million textbooks. You can see footage of the announcement on the Independent's website.

This is a huge win for the Pakistan Education Task Force’s campaign and shows the power of our voices when we band together to help end the issues stemming from extreme poverty. Thank you to all of you who helped make this possible.

However, there is still much to be accomplished in this battle to end the education problems Pakistan is experiencing. They still need more people to sign the petition to continue putting pressure on other global leaders to join Pakistan and the UK in building the education system. 4 million children in school by 2015 is a huge step in the right direction, but that still leaves 21 million children without the chance to attend school.

Let’s keep the momentum going and get even more support behind this campaign so we can make sure no child is left without an education and the chance for a bright future.

Posted by Ashli Alberty in What Can I Do?, Education for column Issue Analysis on Apr 19th 2011, 09:04

Pakistan's Education Emergency


When I was in primary school, I remember enjoying school so much that I couldn’t wait for each new day. I loved learning exciting new things and being able to socialise with my friends in and out of the classroom during the school day. Once I was back at home, I couldn’t wait to share all the fascinating things I learned with my parents and quiz them to see if they were as smart as I was.

“But Mommy, did you know that Neil Armstrong was the first person to set foot on the moon?”

Of course I was slightly bitter when I discovered that although my mother was impressed by my knowledge, in fact she had also heard of Mr. Armstrong’s achievements.

Unfortunately, there are 7 million children in Pakistan who don’t get the chance to have these conversations with their parents at the end of the day, because they aren’t able to attend primary school. 3 million of them will never even see the inside of a classroom.

That means that of the world’s 67 million out-of-school children we discussed last week, roughly 1 in 10 of them live in Pakistan. And for those children who are in school, many of them suffer through overcrowded classrooms, dilapidated facilities, brutal or careless teachers and an overall failing education system.

The Pakistan Education Task Force has deemed this an “education emergency” and is working to ensure that March is the month that Pakistan talks about nothing but education. Well, and cricket.

They have launched the March for Education campaign to ring the alarm on the emergency and work to bring adequate education to all children in Pakistan. The campaign has marked 2011 as Pakistan’s Year of Education to create a national debate with these topics at the top of the political agenda.

The Issues
The March for Education website has a series of 1-minute videos describing the different issues that are creating this education emergency in Pakistan. They range from accessibility for poor families to a limited number of teachers.

However, you might be surprised to know that money is not what’s holding them back from achieving universal primary education. There are currently 26 countries poorer than Pakistan that send more of their children to primary school.

This is an issue of priorities. If the world is serious about achieving education for all by 2015, we have to make education a priority.

You can make a difference
We can all help make education in Pakistan a priority for politicians by signing the March for Education online petition to world leaders to end the education emergency.

Let’s speak up as a global community to let our leaders know that every child in Pakistan deserves the opportunity to go to school and to learn in a safe and conducive environment, and that the time to act is now.


Posted by Ashli Alberty in Education for column Action Stories on Mar 28th 2011, 08:01

Education for All?


“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
– Nelson Mandela

At the beginning of March, UNESCO released its 2011 Education for All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report to evaluate the current climate of global education. The report reveals that despite some individual country gains, we are still way off track to reaching universal primary education by 2015.

Although the number of out-of-school children in 2008 reduced to 67 million, down from 72 million the previous year, we still have a long way to go in just 4 years if we want to meet the second millennium development goal of universal primary education.

This short video and the report describe how one of the biggest barriers currently keeping 42% of those children out of school is violent conflict. The video focuses on the struggles of the education systems in Colombia, Jordan, and the Congo, describing how displacement, violence, and intimidation keep many children out of the classroom.

Twelve years is the average duration of violent conflict episodes in low-income countries, forcing some children to miss their entire primary education and many to have only sporadic schooling.

It’s easy to think there’s nothing we can do to support education in conflict-affected regions, but the EFA report proves that there are many things we can do, and that we should start immediately.

Aid for Education
Education currently only accounts for 2% of all humanitarian aid. That leaves twenty-one developing countries spending more on arms than on primary schools, which is unacceptable if we claim to value education.

According to the EFA Highlights of the report, it would take just six days of military spending by rich countries to close the USD$16 billion Education for All external financing gap. Despite claims by OECD countries that achieving universal primary education by 2015 is a major priority, just 38% of aid requests for education are met, which is around half the average for all sectors.

Speak up for Education
We need to get more good aid into the education sector in conflict-affected countries if we want to help the 28 million children currently out of school to obtain the education they so desperately desire.

You can join people like the Global Campaign for Education to help put pressure on governments to keep their promise to support education for all.

We’ve already had some major wins, seeing 52 million children enrolled in primary school from 1999 to 2008, but we need to pick up the pace if we want to reach the remaining 67 million by 2015.

Posted by Ashli Alberty in Education for column Issue Analysis on Mar 21st 2011, 16:28