(Picture: Some of the 100 Million delegation outside the Transforming Education Summit at the United Nations in New York, from right to left, Rebekka-Tsenaye Nghilalulwa, Namibia’s 100 Million campaign coordinator, Daphine Anyokot, child labour survivor-advocate from Uganda, Winnie Nyandiga, 100 Million's Africa Regional Organiser, Kinsu Kumar and Kajal Kumari child labour survivor-advocates from India and Morgan Keyt, 100 Million US Coordinator)
The Transforming Education Summit (TES), held on the sidelines of the 77th UN General Assembly in New York in September 2022, was a historic international effort to put education at the top of the global political agenda. 100 Million supported a strong delegation of youth activists, student leaders and child labour survivor-advocates to attend the high-level summit. Drawn from Africa, Asia, Europe and North America they demanded governments act with urgency to deliver the right to education for every child and prioritise the needs of the most marginalised children.
The TES came at a critical time of crisis in global education, with UNESCO estimating that 244 million children and young people are currently out of school, and roughly 60% of children globally cannot read and understand a simple text by the age of ten. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and its disruption of education systems worldwide further intensified this devastating trend, especially for the world’s poorest communities.
Determined to advocate for an end to this injustice and expose the systemic inequalities that continue to exclude millions of vulnerable children and young people from accessing education, the 100 Million delegations of ten powerful young people gave impassioned speeches and contributions to a number of high-level meetings and events:
Daphine Anyokot, 17 years old child labour survivor-advocate from Uganda, had an informal meeting with UN Special Envoy for Global Education and former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Amplifying the voices of children working in the mining industry, she advocated for stronger implementation of anti-child labour laws and more protection for teachers.
Hector Ulloa, 26 years old, of the Global Student Forum, was a keynote speaker during the TES panel ‘Towards a new global compact for financing of education’. He called for prioritisation of excluded groups and investment to specifically target the poorest children and young people. He also highlighted the need to challenge systemic educational threats, namely austerity and lack of debt justice or a global framework on tax.
Alexandra Seybal, 22 years old, of the Global Student Forum, hosted a panel with UNESCO and EI on ‘Fostering Student Leadership and Transformational Leadership’. She championed the role of students and teachers in mobilising for social justice and democracy both within and beyond the classroom.
Sebastian Berger, 29 years old, 100 Million founding trustees and Executive Director of the Global Student Forum gave the closing remarks of the entire TES. Demanding tax justice, the leadership of the most marginalised and reminding governments that student and teacher unions have always been at the forefront of the fight for education. You can watch his intervention here.
(Pictures from left to right: Daphine Anyokot meeting UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown, Alexandra Seybal charing a panel at the Transforming Education Summit, Sebastian Berger giving a keynote speech during the Closing Ceremony of the Transforming Education Summit)
Alongside official interventions, the 100 Million delegations also collaborated with ActionAid and Education International to publicly criticise the last minute refusal of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to participate in TES. Running a social media campaign, we highlighted the critical role the IMF has played in undermining equitable education financing for decades by enforcing austerity on many countries, arguing that without changing the way it is globally funded, we cannot transform education.
JUSTICE FOR AFRICA’S CHILDREN
A key moment for the 100 Million campaign was the Justice for Africa’s Children side-event, organised by Laureates and Leaders for Children. This event heard from high-level speakers, including Nobel Laureates Kailash Satyarthi and Leymah Gbowee, former Prime Minister of Sweden HE Stefan Löfven, Kerry Kennedy, HE María Fernanda Espinosa, Director-General of ICESCO Dr Salim AlMalik, Secretary-General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union Martin Chungong, President of Education International Susan Hopgood and Global Spokesperson for Zero Discrimination at UNAIDS Lorena Castillo Garcia.
(Pictures: Speakers making interventions at the Justice for Africa's Children side-event (from left to right) Shaquanna Sebastian, HE Stefan Löfven and Peter Kwasi Kodjie)
Alongside these global education stakeholders were powerful youth speakers, including Shaquanna Sebastian, an Indigenous Youth Leader and member of the 100 Million US National Planning Group, who opened the event with a land acknowledgement recognising the indigenous peoples who were original inhabitants of New York City. Daphine Anyakot, Ebot Witney Tarh, Kajal Kumari and Kinsu Kumar, child labour survivor-advocates from Uganda, Cameroon and India, respectively, made strong interventions, sharing their testimonies of exploitation and calling out the international community for their lack of action to end the injustice of child labour. Lynda Eunice Nakaibale, founder of Raising Teenagers in Uganda and national lead for the Girls Back to School campaign made impassioned remarks on the importance of ensuring policies on paper are turned into action on the ground. Peter Kwasi Kodjie, Secretary General of the All-Africa Students Union, and Alexandra Seybal, Steering Committee Member of the Global Student Forum, who together represent millions of young people and students across the world, added their solidarity and commitment that the global student movement will mobilise collectively to demand Justice for Africa.
The packed event, moderated by 100 Million Africa Regional Organiser Winnie Nyandiga and overlooking the United Nations, built on the success of virtual Laureates and Leaders for Children Summit’s from the previous two years. It further brought together a compelling group of traditional leaders, survivor-advocates with lived experience and youth advocates from representative organisations to jointly expose the shocking injustices against Africa.
The first panel focused on specific injustices in Africa, and the all-African panel highlighted the need for urgent action globally and within Africa. In between sessions, key findings from an upcoming report on Justice for Africa were shared by youth activist Rebekka-Tsenaye Nghilalulwa, Namibia’s 100 Million campaign coordinator. The second panel addressed the strong links between the issues of education and child labour and how they are two sides of the same coin. This was a vital and a message as the wider UN summit focused on education without a substantial discussion on child labour.
TURNING COMMITMENTS INTO ACTION
The six official Calls to Action and Youth Declaration announced at TES include promising, progressive demands for decision-makers at all levels. If governments fully implement these across the world, this could be transformative for the world’s most marginalised children, especially in Africa, where more girls and boys are out of school now than ten years ago and over 10,000 children are forced into child labour every day.
As stated by Sebastian Berger at the closing ceremony of the Transforming Education Summit, young people, students and teachers have been at the forefront of the movement to transform education for generations, and the real work continues not in New York but on the ground in countries and communities across the world.
The youth delegation supported by 100 Million to attend this important summit is already bringing the messages, learnings and demands back into their organisations and building exciting new campaigns and projects together. This includes a new campaign from African students and young people demanding Justice for Africa: Don't’ Cut Our Future! that will be amplified by solidarity actions from their peers worldwide on 20th February 2023. Find out more and join this important work here.