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Youth Advocates’ Voices Echo on Capitol Hill during Global Action Week


Former child laborers from Africa, Asia and Latin America were joined by 50 United States student leaders from various states in fighting illiteracy,
child labor and poverty. They expressed that education is a fundamental right of all children and the denial of education is the failure of the
world leaders. They challenged the US leadership on remaining at the bottom of the rich countries countries in its funding for education of children in the poor countries. These children and youth reminded the world leaders to keep their promises and demanded immediate steps to open the classroom doors to the 80 million children still standing outside of classrooms. Middle and high school students from across the United States assembled in Washington, DC, to take part in the Youth Conference on Education as a Human Right organized by the International Center on Child Labor and Education, to observe the Global Action Week on Education for All last Thursday. The event was supported by the US Child Labor Coalition, American Federation of Teachers and the National Consumers League.

Ashely, a junior from Thomas Dale High School, Chester, Virginia said, “The most effective vaccine for HIV/Aids, fighting poverty, unemployment and child labor is education.” Claire, a junior from the
same school, said, “The United States, as the most powerful nation, should take the responsibility in providing for underprivileged children in poor countries.” Another junior from Thomas Dale High School Brittany gave the example of Niger where the Government is running short of 36,000
teachers. Mariah, a junior from Bainbridge Island High School, Washington, said that she was shocked to learn that United States per capita spending on education is only one dollar annually compared to 20 US dollars spending by Briton. She further proposed that two and a half days of military expenditure can meet the annual expenses of educating children standing outside classrooms. Edward A, a sophomore from Central Islip High School, New York, asked why our brothers in poor countries are not given a fighting chance to receive an education by our leaders and reminded that the US Government should lead the way by meeting the promises made to Education for All.

Kinsu Kumar, 12, a former domestic child worker and now a student of grade seven in India, asked the US law makers to show their leadership in making this world safer for the children by meeting the educational demands of 218 million children forced to work today. The promises must not remain
on paper but be proven by actual disbursement of funds. A former slave boy Freeman, 15, from Ghana said, “Education gave me the power to speak and courage to confront my situation,” and he desires to
become and Architect now.

Brillith, 17, from Colombia, who could enter the classroom only at the age of 11 as she was forced to work as a street vendor, said, “Poverty cannot be eradicated without education.” Speaking on the occasion, the President of the Global Campaign for Education Kailash Satyarthi said, “At least 8-10 million children across 120 countries are joining hands this week to demand an urgent action in solving the biggest global crisis of our times. What else could be a bigger scandal than 80 million children are denied their fundamental right to Education? The doors of the classroom are not merely steel and wood but they are openings to the world of equal opportunities, rights, justice and dignity for the poor.” Addressing the youth, Mr. Satyarthi said, “You are the most sacred and strongest voices against the silence and the brightest faces in the dark. No one can stop us to put an end to the educational crisis.”

Ruth Kagia, Head of the Education Unit of The World Bank, expressed her optimism that the increased social mobilization and youth participation is
the most promising signal to end the vicious circle of illiteracy, child labor, poverty and violence.

Gene Sperling, Chair, Campaign for Education, USA, and former Chief Economic Advisor to US President Clinton, informed that some 40,000 schools across
the country are joining hands on this occasion of Global Action Week. He demanded that the US administration must enhance its overseas aid to

The representative of IPEC-ILO Shireen Khan said, “The new joint initiative of the UN agencies and the Global March, the Global Task Force on
Child Labor and Education, is an expression of the willingness of the international community in addressing the issue of child labor and education
as an integrated issue.”

Dr. Sudhanshu Joshi, Executive Director, International Center on Child Labor
and Education, thanked the Congressional supporters Senator Tom Harkin (D- IA) , Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA), Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA),
Congressman Joe Wilson (R-SC), Congressman Joe Baca (D-CA), Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) for supporting the event. During the day the
students also called on Congressman Ben Chandler (D-KY), Congressman Jay Inslee (D-WA), and Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA). The students also handed
the declaration of the Youth Conference to the offices of Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA), Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA).

Dr. Joshi emphasized that the US spending on global education will in fact be viewed as the most effective spending on national security. He mentioned that the students walking in the hallways of the Capitol wearing shirt “Education for Liberation” has generated spectacular attention and their voices will echo in these hallways reminding of urgent action from the US leadership.


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