Education Above All 10 Million Celebration Event
New York, 27 April 2018
Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I’m so pleased to see so many familiar faces in the audience and to welcome all of you here tonight for this very special occasion.
As most of you may know, we have been counting down to this moment for almost six years, since I set my sights on what - back then – seemed like an unrealistic – even unattainable – goal.
In 2012, I looked at the sixty million young children who were out of school and said we must act.
These children came from the most marginalized, most vulnerable communities in the world. Many, had been displaced, due to conflict; others were refugees, some were fleeing poverty or natural disasters. And none of them were in school.
I thought, what if we could gather partners from around the world and work together to provide a quality education for even 10 per cent of these out-of-school children?
Experts told me that educating six million children would be impossible. But, I refused to believe it. One advisor, told me to set a goal that was “more realistic.” I thought I heard him say, “optimistic,” so I set a target of 10 million!
Well, my friends, 10 million is a very, very large number, especially when we’re talking about 10 million individual boys and girls, each with their own life story, and their own special challenges.
Thanks to the efforts of our Educate A Child program - and our many global partners - I am proud to announce tonight, that we have reached our impossible, our unattainable, and our completely unrealistic objective: 10 million previously out of school children will now receive a quality education!
I want to thank everyone, and all of you, who made this possible. And, I would like to share with you what I think this achievement means.
At Educate A Child, we believe that every child has the right to a quality education. We further believe that education is as necessary to human life as food, water or shelter. And we believe that education is the most powerful tool ever invented for unlocking human potential.
Now there are those who say, yes, education is important, but first we must pave these roads, or train these doctors or build these houses. I know there are competing priorities. But, I say give me 10 reasons why educating the world’s out of school children can wait, and I’ll give you 10 million reasons why it can’t.
Today, because of what we have accomplished together, 10 million children will have an opportunity to expand their intellectual horizons. One day, some of them might even make it to Columbia, or Stanford, or Harvard.
They will have a chance to acquire the kinds of skills that can lead to quality jobs. They will contribute to their communities. They will be able to support families, and they will pass along the benefits of their education to their own children. And, I believe, they will make the world a better place for all of us.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have seen the transformative power of education with my own eyes, in places like Bangladesh, Palestine, Turkey, Sudan, Brazil and Kenya. I have watched as schools were built from scratch, and abandoned buildings turned into classrooms. I have seen children mastering computer skills on refurbished laptops, and I have listened to lessons taught under the shade of a tree, and homework done by candlelight.
The desire to learn is one of the most powerful forces of human nature. And it is in every child. Helping children fulfill that innate desire is the responsibility of us all. Tonight, 10 million more children will have the opportunity to learn. One of them might become the next Oprah Winfrey, or even the next Stephen Hawking.
My friends, we did not achieve this remarkable goal by snapping our fingers or by just writing checks. We had to figure out a way to take a variety of models for local education delivery – based on partnerships and multi-sectoral solutions – and scale them up from the community level to programs of global size and scope.
We reached out to the private sector for unique expertise and much-needed resources.
We worked with government ministries, public agencies, development banks and community groups. We worked with NGOs, big and small. And we worked with great multi-national organizations like UNICEF – experts in child development.
Since this project began, Educate A Child has participated in 82 partnerships across
50 countries. Together, we have leveraged a $1.8 billion dollar investment – a third of it, I’m proud to say, from the government of Qatar. It has been a true global effort.
Along the way, we identified the most significant obstacles to education for the world’s marginalized and vulnerable children. Some of these obstacles were obvious – a lack of classrooms, teachers or textbooks. But some were uniquely challenging.
How do you make the journey to school safe for girls and boys, who need to cross flooded rivers, or walk through wild forests? Where do you put a classroom in a refugee camp? How do you gain the trust of neighborhood leaders – who are suspicious of outsiders? And how do you entice boys and girls to come back to a school that had been bombed?
To educate 10 million out of school children, we needed to learn all of these things, and so much more. Fortunately, we had help, especially from our partners, many of whom are with us tonight. Without your help, we could not have achieved our goal.
And there is one special partner I need to mention here, and that is the parents of these out of school children. Their determination to secure a quality education for their daughters and sons,
despite the obstacles and the hazards, has been moving and uplifting. In many cases, I would say that it was the key ingredient in our success.
Over the next five years, Educate A Child will work to expand our existing programs and implement new ones. We will take what we have learned and apply it to the new challenges we face. Going forward, our efforts will require more than money and good intentions.
We must remember, the world is not a safe place, yet. And the number of out of school children is growing. But, that should not discourage us from pursing our goals.
Educating these children will require a real commitment… from governments, from the private sector, and from the international community. It will take all of our courage, our strength, and our resilience.
Educate A Child and its partners have shown the way. Now it’s time for all of us to re-double our efforts to educate the world’s remaining out of school children.
Millions of children are still waiting and in desperate need of our help. Let’s work together to ensure a better future for all of them and for the world we share…Believe me, it is possible.
I can see my friends from EAC rolling their eyes and asking themselves “does she ever stop?” The answer is no. But, tonight, we take time to celebrate our achievements. And tomorrow, we act on our commitments.