The campaign for universal education got a big boost last week when Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced the Education For All Act of 2010.
The legislation would assist developing countries in strengthening education systems, facilitate U.S. support of a Global Fund for Education, and promote universal education as a core development priority of the U.S. government.
Education for All is an international initiative to bring primary education to every developing country — one of eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals to improve the socioeconomic conditions in these countries by 2015. A staggering 72 million children around the world do not currently have access to a basic education, more than half of whom are girls. Many experts fear the global recession has made those numbers even worse, heightening the urgency for action.
“This legislation helps deliver aid to build new schools in the poorest countries and train more teachers,” said Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “When countries stricken with poverty have no resources to educate their children, we all pay the price.”
Companion legislation is sponsored in the House of Representatives by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) (See video below).
The National Education Association is a longtime supporter of Education for All and an active member of U.S. Chapter of the Global Campaign for Education, a broad coalition of more than 30 organizations to promote the cause of universal basic education. NEA was also a member of the Education International delegation to the World Forum in Dakar 2000, which established the 2015 goal of Education for All.
“At NEA, we know that investing in quality education programs is one of the best investments any government can make,” said NEA Vice-President Lily Eskelsen, who in April joined Lowey and actress Jessica Alba to promote the related 1GOAL campaign. “ You see the returns in health care outcomes, economic growth, sustainable use of resources, and in promoting democracy. We commend Senator Gillibrand for her outstanding leadership.”
NEA also applauded New York State United Teachers President Richard C. Ianuzzi and human rights activist Kerry Kennedy for securing Senator Gillibrand’s support for the EFA Act.
Global activists hope that renewed attention on EFA and the Millennium Development Goals will re-energize an effort that has made only marginal progress in recent years. With 2015 fast approaching, the United Nations is hosting a Millenium Development Goals Summit in New York this week to evaluate progress and devise an action plan on moving forward. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for countries to redouble their efforts to meet the development goals by 2015.
Earlier this month, Global Campaign for Education-US urged President Obama to honor the pledge he made as a candidate to support a Global Fund for Education. Success in bringing basic education to developing countries, says GCE-US Director Joanna Kuebler, greatly depends on strong U.S. leadership.
“We can stay the course and watch another generation of children fall victim to poverty, disease, and conflict. Or, we can see the Education for All Act realized and invest in the next generation of teachers, innovators, and world leaders.”