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Published on: 07-30-2020
The reality that all children around the world can have access to education is one step closer after the petition for Every Child. Everywhere. In School., spearheaded by the Adventist Church and its global humanitarian arm, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), surpassed one million online signatures in July 2020.
“It’s indeed a blessing to see our global church family and ADRA standing up together in support of millions of children who don’t have access to education around the world,” said Seventh-day Adventist Church president Ted Wilson.
“Our brothers and sisters have shown that we can be a powerful voice for change when we work together. Thank you to everyone who helped us reach one million signatures and for your strong commitment to making a meaningful difference in the lives of so many children worldwide.
“Our work doesn’t end here,” Wilson added. “We must now become agents of change in our communities and use our voices to ensure that every child, everywhere, has access to education and can reach God’s potential for their lives as they prepare themselves and others through the power of the Holy Spirit for Jesus’ soon coming.”
ADRA board vice-chair and Adventist Church general vice-president Ella Simmons said that Adventists around the world “have spoken loudly and clearly that we care deeply about assuring access to education to millions of vulnerable children so that they can learn and thrive.” She added, “The commitments of our church family and ADRA united to bring awareness to this global issue speak volumes. Thank you for standing up for the rights of all children everywhere. Let us continue to increase our efforts and magnify our voices on behalf of the children who have no voice.”
Getting It Done
Grassroots efforts for the education campaign kicked off in October 2019 with the Adventist Church and ADRA urging support for the nearly 300 million children, adolescents, and youth globally — or one in every five — who are not in school, according to a UNESCO report. This is a staggering number of children worldwide who need access to high-quality education and to live free from exploitation and intergenerational poverty. As a result, ADRA and Adventist Church members in nearly 200 countries pledged their support to this issue, and momentum spread to get online signatures, including in countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the South Pacific.
As the impact of the coronavirus grows, the importance of advocating for out-of-school children has significantly increased. Today, more families have become vulnerable due to joblessness, illness, and other issues, which has affected their ability to pay for education, leading to more children being out of school. In fact, there are 75 million school-aged children living in 35 crisis-affected countries who cannot get an education due to increased vulnerability, school closures, and other issues as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a 2020 UNESCO report.
The world is facing a growing education gap, especially among vulnerable children, and even though one million signatures is a phenomenal milestone worth celebrating, we are only at the beginning, explained ADRA president Michael Kruger.
“We are developing new global alliances with key organizations to amplify our voices,” he said. “We need your ongoing support and commitment to ensure that we continue to make progress on this important issue. This is why we will be providing resources so that individuals, groups, and churches can speak up on this issue of access to education. We will also share essential details to give you a clear roadmap of what we need to advocate for. Let’s join forces and take this initiative much further.”
What Comes Next?
With the achievement of one million signatures and widespread support, the next step of the global campaign is for the Adventist Church and ADRA to come together to localize this effort in individual countries, ADRA leaders explained. The decisions about how education is delivered and funded are not made by global leaders, but by national and state leaders.
According to ADRA leaders, to localize this effort, the campaign will focus on the following:
Define a clear ask to your government. Each country will create goals tailored specifically for their country’s education needs and hone in on relevant education issues. Some key priorities will include: (1) advocating for increased allocation of education funding in developing countries; (2) increasing foreign aid assistance for education; and (3) improving social inclusion for marginalized children.
Communicate your ask to your national leaders.Once the ask is identified, each country will strategize how to approach policymakers and legislators to ensure all children have the opportunity to get an education. Key to this effort will be to communicate the campaign to the most relevant leaders and decisionmakers in each country. These communication pieces will include information about the campaign, the importance of education, what they can do to ensure every child is in school, the success of the global petition, and the tremendous grassroots support that is behind it.
To support the next phase, leaders shared that ADRA is developing a policy report that will analyze the state of out-of-school children around the globe and the policies and actions needed to address it. Also, ADRA is developing a resource kit for church ministry departments, local churches, youth groups, and schools to continue their involvement beyond the petition. These resources will be available for distribution in October 2020, ADRA leaders said.
In addition, ADRA reported that it has started an advocacy master class to build, implement, and evaluate an advocacy strategy tailored to individual countries. The course is designed to help countries understand how to effectively engage their leaders to bring about change. Additionally, a resource packet that includes draft letter templates, a policy report, meeting guides, and more, will be made available.
Every Child. Everywhere. In School. is a global Adventist-led movement to ensure that every child everywhere in the world attends school, has access to free, equitable, and high-quality primary and secondary education, and completes their education so they can fulfill their God-given potential.