Press Release: Global Campaign for Education ththGlobal Action Week on Education – The Big Read – 20 – 26 April
‘The Big Read’: 10 million expected to read stories from Nelson Mandela, Natalie Portman,
Desmond Tutu, Alice Walker and others
10 million people are expected to take part in The Big Read, to demand urgent action for the one in four
women who are illiterate. Nelson Mandela, Natalie Portman, Desmond Tutu and Alice Walker and others have contributed stories to The Big Read - a book aimed at challenging the global education crisis.
What? The Big Read is a book of short stories about education written by leading figures, Nobel Peace Prize winners and award winning authors. It has been distributed in more than 100 countries free of charge to children, parents and adult learners. Readers will add their name to a declaration - demanding that all governments deliver a good quality free, public education. The Big Read is the Global Campaign for ththEducation’s activity for Action Week this year (20 – 26 April 2009).
“Learning to read and write changes lives; it means jobs, money, health and dreams fulfilled,” commented Her
Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan, who is the Honorary Chair of Global Action Week, 2009.
Why? There are 774 million illiterate adults, 75 million children out of primary school and 226 million children not in secondary school. Nearly all governments have promised ‘Education for All’ by 2015, yet the current global financial crisis threatens to worsen the global situation and leave millions more without an education.
“The world’s poorest did not create this financial crisis, yet they stand to pay the highest price. Budget squeezes in education are threatening to reverse progress made in recent years. We cannot allow illiteracy to rise. The rich world has a responsibility to education – one of the world’s best investments the world can make
to combat poverty. We are calling for $16 billion, a small fraction of the cost of the bank bailouts,” says Assibi
Napoe, Chair of the Global Campaign for Education.
Where? The Big Read is taking place across the world, in homes, schools, government buildings and public events. Here is a small glimpse of what is happening:
; Angelique Kidjo, Ishmael Beah and education advocates are having a press call, Tuesday 3pm GMT
; In the USA there’s a competition to be included in the Big Read book. The campaign aims to get 50,000
signatories to deliver to Obama just before the G8, asking him to contribute $2 billion to the Global Fund for
; In Washington DC Queen Rania of Jordan (the honorary chair of Global Action Week) will join Congresswoman stNita Lowey and Counsellor to the Secretary of the Treasury Gene Sperling in a press conference on Tuesday 21.
; In Malawi the President is taking part in the Big Read.
; In Denmark 187,000 students are reading the ‘Reading Rocket’ as part of Action Week, and 500 students and ndteachers will read speeches on education to the Danish Parliament on the 22 April.
; In Brazil the campaign, UNESCO and National Parliament Education Committee is holding a Big Read event on ththe 28 April, entitled Read and Write the World.
; In South Africa a brand new education movement has been started called ‘Public Participation in Education
Network’. PPEN are taking the Big Read to libraries and schools across the nation, with a highlight event taking thplace on the 16 June.
; In Vietnam 50,000 students have already sent in essays into a Big Read competition.
“Learning is as fundamental a birthright as freedom. Denial of education is denial of freedom. The Big Read is a campaign that gives a second chance for every youth and adult", stated GCE President Kailash Satyarthi.
Notes to Editors
Contact: Alex Kent firstname.lastname@example.org +27 76 428 5390
stMedia Call with Angelique Kidjo, Ishmael Beah and lead education advocates on Tuesday 21 April 15.00 GMT. Dial in to: +1 913-312-0392, passcode: 212140 (RSVP & Recording: email@example.com or +27 76 428 5390)
High resolution photos, footage and audio files available, on the FTP www.campaignforeducation.org/media-ftp or by contacting
The Big Read contains stories from Nelson Mandela, Natalie Portman, Desmond Tutu, Alice Walker, Queen Rania, Paulo Coelho, Angelique Kidjo, Ishmael Beah, Michael Morpurgo, Mary Robinson, Rowan Williams, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Dakota Blue Richards and others. To publish the
stories please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. The text must include “this story is part of The Big Read, a campaign to end illiteracy. Add your name to the Big Read on www.campaignforeducation.org/bigread”
The Global Campaign for Education, founded in 1999, brings together major non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and teachers’ unions in more
than 120 countries. GCE promotes access to education as a basic human right and raises public awareness to create the political will for governments and other leaders in the international community to fulfil their promises to provide at least a free, public basic education for all
children. Every April GCE organizes a week of campaigning on education called Global Action Week. This year’s Action Week is called ‘The Big Read’ thth20 – 26 April www.campaignforeducation.org/bigread
The state of global education today: ‘Education for All’ has been promised by 2015 yet there are 774 million illiterate adults, two thirds of whom are women, and 75 million children, of primary school going age, and 226 million adolescents of secondary school age, out of school.
- Two-thirds of all children arrive at primary school under-nourished or with a disability that will likely impair their education achievement
throughout their lives.
- In Sub-Saharan Africa 22 countries offering secondary education to less than one-quarter of the school-aged population.
- 113 countries that missed the UN Millennium Development Goal of gender parity in school set for 2005. And in 54 countries, less than
50% of girls enrol in secondary education.
- Of the 43 countries by the World Bank at risk of high exposure to the crisis, 29 are already facing serious challenges in achieving the
Education For All goals.
- More than three-quarters of the world’s illiterate people live in only fifteen countries, including eight of the nine high population
countries: Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Pakistan.
The situation has been exacerbated by the international financial crisis:
- UNESCO predicts a drop in 20% per capita of Africa’s poor that will force the poorest countries to reduce their spend on education.
- UNESCO claims Mozambique, Ethiopia, Mali, Senegal, Rwanda and Bangladesh, to be most at risk.
- The European Union’s aid commitment alone looks set to be $4.6 billion lower than in previous years.
Education is crucial for economic, social and physical wellbeing and tackling poverty:
- A person’s earnings increase by 10% for each year of schooling they receive, translating to a 1% annual increase in GDP if good quality
education is offered to the entire population.
- Seven million cases of HIV/AIDS could be prevented in the next decade if every child received an education.
- A child born to a literate mother is 50% more likely to survive pass the age of 5 years
- Education combats hunger - gains in women’s education made the most significant difference in reducing malnutrition between 1970-
1995, a more important role than increased food availability.
GCE is demanding national governments in poorer countries to make constitutional provision for every child to have a free, good quality, public education. They must provide all people, whatever their age, with the opportunity to become literate and access to lifelong learning and skills
training. Richer governments and international institutions must guarantee predictable and long-term development aid to education that enables
poorer countries to deliver the full Education for All agenda, including adult literacy. They should do so through a new Global Funding for
Education, a larger global pooled funding ‘pot’ that drives ambitious appropriate financing of national education plans.