Young children prepare to celebrate a library dedication ceremony and to welcome Ambassador Dho Young-shim, a Member of the UN Millennium Development Goals Advocacy Group at a primary school in Mayange, Rwanda on July 3rd, 2014.
Photo by Thomas Prior for MSNBC

Why world leaders must not give up on education

By Bridget Moynahan and Hugh Evans

Education is a human right from which millions of children around the world benefit – even if they don’t yet know it. Education is something we grow up with, and access to it is something we’ve come to expect. In fact, the world agrees that access to an education is so important that in 2000, the world made a promise that children everywhere would have access to primary education by 2015.

And we’re 90% of the way there; the number of children who do not go to school has decreased by 48 million in the last decade. But momentum has stalled. Globally, nearly one in 10 children still go through life without a basic primary education that will help them improve their life conditions. And of this group, 31 million of those children are girls.

Education is the most significant contributing factor to a world without extreme poverty. The power of education to transform lives is universal. Education improves livelihoods; educated people find better jobs; and a good education gives children the confidence they need 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 with dignity as a human being.

The United Nations estimates that if all students in low-income countries had basic reading skills, 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty.

What it really comes down to is fairness – some children have access to an education, and some don’t. The children who have access will learn the tools needed to contribute to society, lead a productive life and provide for themselves and their families. And more often than not, those who lack access to an education will live their life stuck in the cycle of poverty without the tools or knowledge to lead them out.

But wealthy countries have cut aid to education despite it being the No. 1 priority of parents and children around the world. We are now on the verge of breaking the promise we made to children nearly 15 years ago.

As a main part of this year’s Global Citizen Festival, we want to make primary education a top priority for world leaders. Organizations such as the Global Partnership for Education are working to get millions of children around the world into school. We need to call on world leaders in high-donor countries, such as the U.S. and Canada, and remind them how critical it is that they continue to direct aid dollars toward education.

The children around the globe, especially girls, deserve a basic education. And it is our duty to kick up the dust so world leaders take notice.

We need to get 29 million kids enrolled in a quality education program by 2018, and to do that we’re going to call on four companies that have in the past shown incredible leadership in achieving universal access to education. Let’s show them our gratitude for the incredible work they’ve already done, and ask that they continue to be global advocates for education. Take action here.

Bridget Moynahan is an actress and Global Citizen Ambassador. Hugh Evans is the chief executive officer of The Global Poverty Project.

Global Citizen and Global Poverty Project

Why world leaders must not give up on education