As we mark the International Day of Human Rights, two of the world’s most prominent child rights advocates are in Oslo to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. One of them, Kailash Satyarthi has been a child rights activist for decades. The other, Malala is the youngest person ever to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
In their official announcement, the Nobel committee emphasized the laureates’ struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.
The award that they share is not only an acknowledgement of the inviolable rights of children but also an inspiration to all of us who continue to strive for children’s right to education.
Children still denied their right to education
Far too many children throughout the world are still unable to go to school and to learn. For many of them, this is due to poverty or social exclusion. These are the children that Kailash Satyarthi has worked tirelessly for. Other children have had their education disrupted by conflict and war.
The most disturbing of all is the high number of children and young people who are being attacked because they go to school, because the idea of informed young people able to make their own decisions and determine their own future is perceived as a threat.
Malala Yousafzai is the most famous of these children, shot in the head at the age of 15 simply for going to school and for asking that others be allowed to do so too. She has given them a face and a voice. And what a voice!
Her first public speech in English at the Youth Takeover of the United Nations last summer will be etched on our memories forever, demonstrating the power of education through the statement: “One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world.”
International guidelines to protect education
Whether attacks on schools are deliberate or not, the right to education is violated and generations of children and young people pay the consequences. The Draft Lucens Guidelines are a valuable contribution to limiting the harmful effect of conflicts on education. Developed by the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack, support for the guidelines is gaining ground as the Norwegian and Argentinean governments actively champion their endorsement and implementation.
That we neglect children’s right to education is also demonstrated by the lack of humanitarian funding in this sector.
Less than 2 % of the overall humanitarian funding in 2013 was allocated for education and the international community hasn’t even come close to delivering on what we pledged in September 2012 at the Education Cannot Wait event.
Neglecting children’s education is also a failure to listen to children’s voices. Many among the refugee communities, be it the children or their families, call for education. Save the Children and the Norwegian Refugee Council have published a study to capture the views of internally displaced persons and refugees on their priorities in and after an emergency.
“Hear it from the Children” reflects the voices of more than 250 children, parents, teachers and community representatives from education projects supported by the European Union’s Children of Peace Initiative in Masisi in North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Dollo Ado in Ethiopia.
Education is a priority for those affected by emergencies and war. To echo a 15 year old boy from the DRC, “Without school you have no choices in life, you are just trying to survive.”
It is this notion that Kailash Satyarthi, and Malala Yousefzai have transferred into political action. The Nobel Committee heard it, and honoured it.
I can’t wait to celebrate it alongside thousands of children in Oslo.
Tove R. Wang is the Chief Executive Officer of Save the Children Norway.