Pupils can help to educate the world

21st March 2008 at 00:00

As well as providing humanitarian aid and running development programmes in more than 80 countries around the world, Oxfam works with schools and the Assembly government. The charity has been helping to support education in sustainable development and global citizenship.

Such education can deepen young people's knowledge and understanding of the world. Oxfam recommends that teaching children and young people about these issues is critical if they are to become responsible global citizens.

Far from promoting one set of answers, this encourages them to explore, develop and express their own values and opinions, while listening to and respecting other people's points of view. The scope of education for global citizenship is wider than a single subject. It is relevant to all areas of the curriculum, languages and all age ranges.

The charity also campaigns for universal primary education. It believes education is a fundamental right, the quickest way out of poverty and the key to sustainable human development. Seventy-two million primary-age children are out of school globally. More than half the world's out-of- school children are girls, and 43 per cent live in sub-Saharan Africa or South and West Asia.

Child labour is a major cause of children being out of school. Worldwide, 165 million children aged five to 14 years are denied a full education because they have to work. Not having a school uniform is another reason.

In an increasingly knowledge-based economy, exclusion from education will translate into growing poverty, inequality and deprivation. So what can we in Wales do about it?

The Global Campaign for Education (GCE) week will take place (April 21-25) in schools across the world to highlight the importance of universal primary education.

The GCE is a coalition of teachers' unions, child rights activists and development organisations from around the world, united in their determination to make the right to education a reality.

We have seen some powerful actions over the past few years - schoolchildren from Wales have created giant maps of the world in their school fields, questioned their MPs, and even been to meet Tony Blair in Downing Street.

In Wales, Oxfam Cymru and Christian Aid are encouraging schools to take part in GCE events. You can invite your MP to go "back to school" to learn more about the education crisis and explore how they would be affected by a lack of education, or take part in a record-breaking attempt to create the world's biggest joint lesson in history on Wednesday, April 23.

Need more inspiration? Take a moment to think of your class as representing the world's children. One in nine of them would miss out on a basic education. As teachers, you know better than anyone that access to education can transform lives, offering opportunities to develop skills and knowledge that provide hope and a future for the world's children.

Oxfam has helped to bring issues such as climate change, poverty and social injustice to life in classrooms for more than 30 years by providing teachers with lesson plans, assembly ideas and resources that really enthuse and empower young people.

Taking part in GCE and teaching your pupils what universal primary education is all about is one way you can introduce the sustainable development topic to them.

- www.sendmyfriend.org

Steve Brooks is acting head of Oxfam Cymru.

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