Educate A Child Event at the Jazz Lincoln Center

New York, 16 May 2013

Thank you Wynton, for that introduction. Thank you all so much for coming here tonight. And for your willingness to learn more about our endeavour.

To give every child the chance to be educated is a gift of promise. A gift of wonderment. A gift that opens up possibilities that can transform lives and develop thinkers, leaders, and creators of great art - like many of you here tonight.

I would like to start by asking you a simple question: what does the word ‘education’ mean for you?

For some of us, it brings back memories of book-lined libraries or lecture halls at university. Others may think of their own children in a classroom, hard at work on an assignment.

Education for us is about the experience of learning. But for others, education means so much more. Let me tell you what it means for the children in the film you just saw, whom I met last year.

Many young people in the Kakuma refugee camp have been forced to flee from conflict in their homelands. So the camp school is the only thing that brings them a sense of normality.

For the children in the boat-schools in the flood-plains of Bangladesh, the floating classrooms represent a precious opportunity to create a different destiny for themselves. An opportunity that their parents never had.

Then there is the head teacher Suad you saw there. Suad was due to get married when she was just a young teenager. But she persuaded her father to let her continue to secondary education, on the promise that it would bring the family more money than a dowry. So for her, education means having a choice.

And these are the fortunate ones – the ones whose destiny has been changed by education. Millions more are denied that chance, through no fault of their own.

Millions of out-of-school children across the world face challenges that are beyond imagination.

But we have a duty to try. Because when we educate our children we plant the seeds of the future.

Educated children are healthier. Their earning potential is greater. Educated children have the tools to break the vicious cycles of poverty and conflict. That is why education is not only the concern of the educators. It is everybody’s concern.

Educate A Child was set up last year to catalyse innovative solutions, that bring all sectors of society together in a joint effort. Our aim is not only to get children into classrooms. Our aim is to enable them and their families to keep them there - by tackling the root caus-es that hinder children from being in school.

Educate A Child takes an integrated approach that addresses the challenges from a holistic perspective. For instance, we seek to empower families economically, so that they can afford to have their children in school.

There are 61 million children who are denied the chance of schooling. These 61 million have been forgotten by the world. This is unacceptable.

Educate A Child has set itself the goal of reaching 10 million of these by the end of 2015. This may sound ambitious, but I know it is possible.

In just 4 months, we reached 600,000.There is so much to do, but we cannot do it alone. That is why we are working with a wonderful range of partners.

Each can bring a unique and valuable contribution to our goal of reaching these 10 million.

So I would like to say thank you Wynton, thank you Robert and thank you Akbar for coming on this journey with us.

Thank you all for coming this evening. I am glad to have had this opportunity to share with you what education means to me.

Education, for me, is a second chance for peace.