A child’s future should not include a decision between health or education

To anyone familiar with the history of global health campaigns, it’s clear that today’s pledging conference for new vaccines (GAVI) in Berlin, Germany, is a big success, with $7.5 billion of funding committed.

It is a clear example of the “international community” — whatever that is! — coming together and changing the lives of millions of families around the world. When it comes to people’s lives, big numbers can be overwhelming — but that this coordinated action will save the lives of millions of children is inspiring.

This has been a long journey for health campaigners, for those working tirelessly on tackling maternal and child mortality. From Robina in Uganda, Arshad in Pakistan to Pragya in Delhi — these are all individuals who have worked to campaign for better health for all, supported by the many advocates and campaigners around the world, from Norway to the United States.

The global health movement has seen the results of this worldwide campaigning: the number of children dying of preventable illnesses has halved in a decade. However, during this time another story is unravelling before our eyes and is in need of urgent global attention.

Progress on getting every child in to school has stalled at 58 million, basic aid to education is dropping and attacks on schools are at their highest levels for 40 years.

The poor response to what is possibly the largest refugee crisis since World War II is an example of the lack of support for basic education — only $100million has been pledged to help install a country-wide double-shift school system for Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The total needed isstill $163million short. This is not for lack of popular desire for education around the world: Survey after survey shows us that education is the number one priority for a global majority.

After years of these demands being neglected, a new global movement is emerging to reverse the trends and make the right to education a reality. A network of businesses, faith leaders, NGOs, United Nations bodies, youth, media and teachers are working together to get the world into school and learning.

Campaigners working on the barriers to education — child marriage, child labour, discrimination against girls, disability and others groups — are coming together to recognise education as the key change-maker. A network like this working together is a powerful global force that cannot be ignored.

Their campaigning is being led by young people: more than 500 A World at School Global Youth Ambassadors in 85 countries launched the#UpForSchool Petition that has already received 1.5 million signatures around the world demanding action this year.

Bill Gates addresses the GAVI pledging conference

Their petition is being supported by a range of organisations from Rotary International to the Global Campaign for Education (GCE), from Elle magazine to Brac, the world’s biggest NGO — and the Global Business Coalition for Education, a network of 105 leading global businesses.

As well as supporting the petition, the Global Business Coalition for Education has shown its commitment to education by working with A World at School to publish a crucial report calling for schools to reopen in Ebola affected countries — and schools are starting to reopen in Guineaand soon Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Today’s GAVI pledging is a great example of what the world can do with concerted action. But it casts into stark relief the shameful lack of progress — and for many countries, the backward steps they’ve taken — when it comes to education. Before the end of the Millennium Development Goals and the promises made in 2000 are forgotten, we have a window of opportunity to make the world keep its commitment to make the right to a quality, safe education a reality.

The key to unlocking a child’s future should not include a decision between health or education. We will not give children a fair start unless we tackle inequality in both health and education — zero new deaths, zero new infections, zero discrimination — and zero ignorance.

Now’s the time to listen to the global demands for education — and Stand #UpForSchool.

You can join this movement: sign the #UpForSchool Petition.

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