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Gordon Brown: Lack of global education fuels security threats (+video)

If countries don't close the global gap in access to education, unrest will grow – not because young people are anti-American, but because they have lost hope. We must persuade governments and publics that educating a child in a poor country is a worthwhile investment. 

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Extending educational opportunity is thus an urgent moral, economic, and security imperative. Fortunately, there are good grounds for believing that we can move quickly to deliver new and better chances for young people. Everywhere I go, from Africa’s biggest slum in Kibera, Kenya, to the Dalit “untouchable” communities outside Delhi in India, I meet parents who understand the power of education. The mothers who had just crossed as refugees from Sudan into South Sudan told me that their children certainly needed food, shelter, and security, but what these mothers wanted most for them was education.

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This week, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched the Education First initiative that unites businesses, foundations, nongovernmental organizations, governments, teachers, parents, and pupils in a 1,000-day campaign to get every child into quality education by the end of 2015. As the new UN special envoy for global education, I know that this big push has to be bolder than ever before in battling prejudice, discrimination, and exploitation.

We have to tackle the culture that takes 10 million girls out of school to become child brides; outlaw the forced employment of 15 million children under 12 who are never allowed to enter a classroom; end the brutalization of untold numbers forcibly conscripted into armed groups, used by criminal gangs to perform illicit activities or sold into prostitution; and give hope to the 25 million out-of-school children living in conflict areas.

We do not have to rely on a scientific breakthrough or a transformation in technology – only a revolution in political willpower – to train the 2 million more teachers and build the 4 million extra classrooms that the world needs. No parent I know would consider the $13.50 a year we give an African child in educational aid too generous.

Tragically, even that meager amount – just 25 cents for a week’s schooling – is falling. Yet we can persuade both governments and publics that a few dollars more from the citizens of a rich country for the education of a child in a poor country is a worthwhile investment. With support of just a dollar a year from the world’s 1 billion members of the middle class, we could start to honor the Millennium promise we made to every child that they would be at school.

This year at the London Olympics, we have seen what investment in young people and their potential can achieve. When we are also starting to understand the damage done by the absence of opportunity, can we afford to refuse the next generation its chance?

Gordon Brown, the former prime minister of Great Britain, is the United Nations special envoy for global education.

© 2012 Global Viewpoint Network/Tribune Media Services. Hosted online by The Christian Science Monitor.

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