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Campaign steps up for 100 million still not in school

Next week children armed with cardboard cut-outs will be urging the world's politicians to make Education for All a reality

Children in more than 100 countries are due to take part in the Send My Friend to School campaign between April 24 and 30.

The global action week aims to impress on governments that education is the key to eradicating poverty and to hold them to promises to get all children into school.

The activities organised by the Global Campaign for Education (GCE) will remind world leaders that they failed to meet their goal of getting as many girls into school as boys by 2005. They may also miss the goal of getting all children into school by 2015 .

Children will send their own leaders up to one million cut-outs with the slogan "send my friend to school", "a powerful visual reminder of the 100 million children currently out of school in the developing world," Anne Jellema of GCE said. Many of the cut-outs will be female, emphasising that the majority of children out of school are girls.

Rallies, lobbying and special assemblies will take place during the week.

In Niger, high-profile politicians will go back to school while "friends" collected across the country will be presented to prime minister Hama Amadou.

India is planning its first national protest marathon involving children, parents, politicians and celebrities who will hold their "friends" aloft in an attempt to force the government to speed up efforts to get girls into school.

In El Salvador, a special session will be held in the National Assembly involving children. They will tell the assembly what must be done to get their "friends" educated.

Children will also meet regional politicians in Nigeria and special sessions will be held in assemblies in five states and at the national level.

In Kenya, colourful rallies and processions will be held culminating in a national rally in Nairobi on behalf of the friends.

In the Netherlands, thousands of digital "friends" created by pupils will be presented to the development minister by 750 schoolchildren outside parliament. In Peru, cut-outs will be displayed in the central Plaza de Armas in front of the Congress building after a presentation to president Alejandro Toledo.

Up to a million cut-outs will be delivered to world leaders at the G8 summit of the richest countries in Scotland in July - including hundreds of thousands from British children - to push for more aid for education.

Ms Jellema said: "Children cannot meet Prime Minister Tony Blair and other world leaders face to face but they can send their 'buddy'."

"The cut-outs will remind world leaders that they have not kept their promise to ensure all children are in school by 2010 and that people all over the world are angry about it," she said.

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