NEW YORK, USA. A few weeks ago, I joined 499 other young leaders from around the world to witness something truly historic unfold at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. We watched in awe as Malala Yousafzai – the young Pakistani education activist who was shot by the Taliban last October – passionately appealed for the world to deliver the gift of education to those boys and girls who currently go without.

Looking out at the audience of hundreds of young people gathered before her, as well as world leaders like UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Malala said “We call upon all governments to ensure free, compulsory education – all around the world for every child.”

Malala’s rousing call comes at a critical time. In 2000, world leaders agreed to provide a basic primary education for all children, everywhere, by 2015. This goal was considered so important that it was enshrined in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the UN’s 8-point plan to halve the number of people living in extreme poverty by 2015. Leaders from all UN member states unanimously agreed to these goals at the time.

Now with less than 1,000 days to go until the deadline for achieving the MDGs, we stand on the verge of breaking the promise we made to children everywhere at the dawn of the century. True, some progress has been made. The number of children who do not go to school has been reduced by 48 million since 2000. But this still puts us at a long way from delivering on the pledge to put every child into school by 2015.


1 in 10 children worldwide – that’s 57 million – still go through life without an education. Of these, 31 million are girls. Additionally, tens of millions of children drop out of school before attaining fundamental skills like reading and math – forced into early marriages, participating in dangerous work just to feed their families, or pushed out because of school fees they can’t afford.

Quite simply, these statistics are unacceptable. That’s why education is one of the four key themes for this year’s Global Citizen Festival, which will be held in Central Park, New York on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013. Featuring Stevie Wonder, Kings of Leon, Alicia Keys and John Mayer, the festival will coincide with the 68th session of the UN General Assembly. As over 100 world leaders fly into New York for the annual talkfest, the festival’s 60,000 attendees will shine the international spotlight on the education emergency and call on governments to commit the funding needed to put education first.

Specifically, we’re asking our leaders to:

  1. Increase financial support for the Global Partnership for Education, the only multilateral partnership devoted to getting all children into school for a quality education; and,
  2. Commit to allocate at least 10 percent of their foreign aid budgets toward basic education. Currently wealthy countries commit, on average, less than 3 percent of their aid to basic education, though it is core to the success of all other development efforts.

Ending the education crisis is critical to the goal of realizing a world without extreme poverty. Education improves livelihoods. Educated people find better jobs. A good education gives children confidence to face the future. It offers them a chance for a better life. A chance to break the cycle of extreme poverty and lead a life as a human being with dignity.

To push leaders to make the commitments needed to get these children into school, we need an uprising of public pressure. As U2 front man Bono once said, “we can’t blame the politicians because we have to give them permission to spend what is in the end our money.” That’s why in the lead up to this year’s Global Citizen Festival, we’re asking participants to put pressure on decision makers to put education first and make sure that no more lost generations fall through the cracks, destined for a life of poverty and powerlessness.

Supporters can stand alongside courageous young students like Malala by taking action at As a result, they also have the chance to earn tickets to the festival. There, in Central Park, we’ll band together to demand that the global community answer the call of parents everywhere for the schooling their children deserve.