Make access to education a priority

September 16, 2005|By Jane Williams

THE FIRST real sign of the end of summer arrived when students, me included, zipped up their backpacks, organized their folders and headed back to school.

For some, this year marks the beginning of a new chapter in their lives - the end of elementary school and the beginning of the dreaded middle school.

For some, this year will be their first, for others, their 12th.

But for more than 100 million children around the globe, this school year does not exist. Whether it is because they must work all day to bring money home to their families, because the schoolhouse is too far from home or simply because a schoolhouse does not exist, over 100 million children ages 6 to 12 are not enrolled in school. Three-fifths of those children out of school are girls.

As we have seen in the last few weeks, natural forces can completely wipe away all opportunities for the immediate future in a few hours. The devastation left by Hurricane Katrina mirrors the state of many of the developing countries. Brian Williams, an NBC anchor, was even quoted saying, "When we get back to the States..." as he reported from New Orleans.

The devastation seems almost unimaginable for the powerful and wealthy country that is the United States. Now, as the more than 100 million children around the world, the children living in areas affected by Katrina suddenly were left without homes, without money and, more importantly, without access to education at home.

These devastating images and horrible stories can be found in places other than developing countries. The problem is that these images and these stories are what have come to define developing countries.

World leaders have gathered at the United Nations this week to evaluate their progress on the Millennium Development Goals, eight objectives that were created in 2000 when 189 nations drafted a plan for fighting poverty and guaranteeing human rights.

Among these, Goal No. 2 is to ensure that by 2015, children everywhere, both boys and girls, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling. To meet this goal, we must treat the issue of access to education as a global issue. We must recognize education as the key to fighting global poverty. Through access to education, we can give opportunities to those who would normally get caught in the cycle of poverty, disease and death.

It is imperative that world leaders discuss realistic plans for reaching the Millennium Development Goals, specifically Goal No. 2.

They must recognize that education is a universal goal in which we all have a share. They must use the destruction and devastation they have seen in their own backyards to motivate them to achieve those goals in a realistic yet progressive way.

World leaders must come together, not as separate presidents or prime ministers, not as leaders of the developed nations and leaders of the developing countries, but as just that - world leaders who are united by their common desires, by their shared vulnerability to misfortune.

Jane Williams is a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. She lives in Bethesda.

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