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President Mandela Knew the Importance of Education

The former President of South Africa,  Nelson Mandela, once remarked, "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." Mr. Mandela went on to say, "The power of education extends beyond the development of skills we need for economic success.  It can contribute to nation-building and reconciliation..." These words should  loudly resound in every corner of the globe. Education should be at the top of the priority list for every government around the world. Knowledge is power, and  it has the power to transform lives.

The Importance of Education for All: A Young Girl's Mission

The setting was the United Nations General Assembly. The date was July 12, 2013. The audience was filled with youth from over 80 countries around the world, as well as U.N. dignitaries and leaders. It was a Youth Assembly to commemorate Malala Day in honor of Malala Yousafzai, the young 16 year-old from Pakistan who was shot by the Taliban late last year for simply wanting to attend school. Each person in attendance anxiously anticipated what young Malala was about to say. She had already captivated the world by the courage and grace she displayed while recovering from her injuries.

The aim of young Malala was to bring attention to the plight of the 57 million children without access to education. One of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), set to expire in 2015, is assuring that each boy and girl has the right to a primary education. As the post-2015 planning proceeds, it calls for education and gender equality as part of the agenda.

So, with the scene set, an inspiring young lady took to the podium to present an equally inspiring message. She spoke with grace and humility; "Malala Day is not my day. Today is the day of every woman, every boy and every girl who have raised their voice for their rights." The young girl added, "So here I girl among many. I speak - not for  myself, but for all girls and boys. I raise up my voice - not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard. Those who have fought for their rights. Their right to live in peace. Their right to be treated with dignity. Their right to equality of opportunity. Their right to be educated."

One certainly has to pause and remember that this is a young girl on her 16th birthday, recently recovering from some horrific injuries, addressing the U.N. General Assembly. In reading her speech, I could not help but think what was I doing at age 16? I can unequivocally say that speaking before the U.N. General Assembly was not one of them. All the more reason to stand and applaud this young lady.

Malala continued by calling upon nations to resolve the global conflicts that are a direct cause of preventing children from attending school. In addition, the scourge of global poverty equally shares in the blame for depriving children of a quality education. All of us, as global citizens, cannot ignore Malala's plea for help in her efforts to heighten  awareness of this problem. Are we going to sit silently while children are deprived of an education? I would hope not. Do we turn our backs on the estimated 250 million children who lack the basic skills to read or write? I would hope not. For if we do, what does it say about us as a global community?

Malala is now the face and voice of this issue. A girl with her determination will continue to highlight the struggle for an equal education for all whenever the opportunity presents itself.  She left everyone with one very poignant message at the end of her address when she said, "One child, one teacher, one pen, one book can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education First."  The U.N. Aims to Work Hard to Realize Malala's Dream

The first important step undertaken by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in realizing Malala's dream of an education for all occurred in July 2012 when he appointed former Prime Minister of Great Britain Gordon Brown as his U.N. Special Envoy for Global Education. Some of the measures the former British Prime Minister has taken, according to an interview he conducted with UN News Centre, include: "A World At School" and "Education Without Borders, which aims to address the educational gap that occurs to children who live in conflict areas.

Mr. Brown added that his plans are to focus on countries like: Nigeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Ethiopia where children are educationally deprived. In addition, Syria is an important country as well where a civil war has left many children unable to go to school leaving another generation of our young falling further behind.

In September 2012, the U.N. Secretary-General launched the Global Education First Initiative making education a major priority of the world body. The initiative has a three-pronged strategy: (1) to put every child in school; (2) improve the quality of learning, and (3) foster global citizenship. Education Should Not be Taken for Granted

In about five weeks or so, most children will be heading back to school following the long hot summer. Many, if not all, will be dreading the day as it quickly nears. However, it would be a good lesson for children as they return to the classroom to watch or read Malala's speech. She, and many others like her, would not dread a return to the classroom; to the contrary, they would relish the opportunity and loudly applaud the chance when it comes because they know the power of a good education and how it can transform a life.


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