Launch of Educate A Child Initiative

Doha, 14 November 2012

Thank you, Alek, for sharing your moving and inspiring experience with us today.

Right now, millions of children are being robbed of their fundamental right to quality education. Children in war-torn villages in South Sudan, or in overcrowded refugee camps in Cambodia. Children living in the flooded plains of Bangladesh, or in isolated or marginalised communities in Kenya.

Right across the world, because of disaster, because of poverty - children are being denied a chance to change their destinies.

Today, we are here to give them that chance. To change the destinies of millions.

Today, we are here to Educate A Child.

You have heard the statistics – over sixty million children are currently deprived of access to education.The figures are hard to comprehend. But imagine this – that number is the same as the populations of Beijing, London, Paris, Cairo and Karachi combined.

Behind these numbers are countless real life stories. Stories of disadvantage, poverty, conflict, of disaster. But also stories of courage, of resilience, of determination. Every single one of them deserves a chance to achieve great things.

And that is what we want to accomplish with Educate A Child.

Last month, I spent some time in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. I wanted to see for myself the impact of education in zones of conflict. There I met Suad Shariff Mohammed, the head teacher of the Horseed Primary School. Suad is responsible for the education of one thousand four hundred children. Children of different nationalities, cultures, languages and faiths. The school has just twenty-five teachers. Some are teaching classes of one hundred and sixty-eight pupils in a single crowded space, without electricity, without pencils. Even without chairs or desks.

For many of us, learning in these conditions can seem impossible. But for Suad and the other teachers, nothing is impossible. They use their creativity. When they lack writing materials, they teach through song or drama.

Suad herself grew up in the refugee camp and graduated from Horseed School. And now, despite her full-time job managing this large school, she is studying for a degree through distance learning. She is an amazing young woman with an inspiring story of commitment.

Suad, I know you are here in the room with us today. Suad, we are delighted to welcome you to Doha. Thank you for coming.

Educate A Child is now supporting Suad’s efforts, in partnership with UNHCR.

But each of the 1,400 children in her school deserves the chance to write their own inspiring story. That is why Educate A Child is focused not just on the numbers of children getting into school, but on the quality of their education.

Suad needs more trained teachers. She needs more classrooms. She needs the world to value these children’s education as highly as she does. Because the hard truth, is that the children in Horseed School are the lucky ones – the ones with a school to go to.

Millions more don’t even have that.

Educate A Child will re-ignite the world’s commitment to the hardest-to-reach children, the forgotten children. Our mission is to turn attention back to the disadvantaged children of today, who could become the confident and talented adults of tomorrow, if we just give them the opportunity.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The challenge is daunting. The children still not in school are the ones hardest to reach, in the most difficult circumstances. But we cannot turn away. Reaching them will require investment. It will require commitment. It will require great inventiveness.

Take for instance the floating schools in the flood plains of Bangladesh – you saw it on the film. Most of the children attending them are from poor families living near the water, who could not afford to send their children to school far inland. So, because the children can’t get to school, the schools come to them. The floating schools act as both a bus and a classroom – collecting the children, and providing lessons.

These are the inventive solutions Educate A Child will support and showcase. And we are already having an impact. In just six months, we have started working on over twenty-five projects in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. We have reached five hundred thousand children.

This is just the beginning.

And for me, it is not enough. Our ambition goes much further. Just imagine how many we can reach as we continue to build our partnerships in a true spirit of fruitful collaboration and mutual learning.

That is why Educate A Child is collaborating with the world’s most expert partners. Partners with broad global reach. And partners with deep local roots. Our aim is to bring them together in a fertile ecosystem, where innovative ideas can be nurtured. Where successful approaches can be adapted and replicated. This is how we will bring quality learning to millions of children.

Educate A Child is about enabling. It is about doing. It is about adapting solutions to the needs of children.

Like WISE, it is about building on existing successful approaches and collaborating for change.

Thank you.