Saturday, 25 January 2014

Our Year as Young Ambassadors

Wow, what a year!! It’s hard to know where to start.  We have been to Parliament, India, New York and many schools in our local area.  Who would have thought an in school campaign involving all 1,600 students would lead to this?  It started with Desmond Swayne, our local MP, visiting school for an interview and our subsequently travelling to London to present him and Stephen O Brien MP, former Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for International Development, with our campaign model. Thus began what turned out to be the best year of our lives.

We then entered the Steve Sinnott award to become the Young Ambassadors for the Global Campaign for Education 2013. We remember to this day the moment we were told by our teacher, Mrs Hickman we were successful; an emotional time; we just could not believe it!!

Then preparation started for our week-long visit to India in February half term. We created comics of our school, and of our home lives, and collected resources to donate to the education projects that we would visit and so we were all set and ready to go.

The visit to India was an eye opening and emotional roller coaster. This incredible place was a kaleidoscope of colours and a cacophony of sound, and its people who were so welcoming touched us with their kindness and hospitality. Getting an education was extremely tough for them and we heard many harrowing stories. We were able to stand with them at a public hearing to support and give evidence about the issues we had seen and we felt we were making a difference.  We will never forget both the people and organisations we met in India. The things we saw and the stories we heard gave us the energy and enthusiasm to drive the campaign forward.

On our return we presented our findings at the national NUT conference in Liverpool. In addition we shared our experiences and drove the campaign though assemblies and visiting other local schools. During the year we spread our message of the barriers to education and the injustice that so many face. We estimate we have touched over half a million people and about 5000 schools signed up for the Send My Friend to School Campaign. We have tweeted and blogged throughout the year to keep the campaign alive, and we were able to talk to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Global Education.

Later in the year we held an ‘Education for All Day’ at our school which was a great success and much enjoyed by both students and teachers. Puppets were made that we compared with those made by disadvantaged girls in Delhi. Over the issue of what makes a good teacher, differences were staggering. We also ran a successful activity to highlight the importance of water, having noted that water, in different ways, had a big impact in the Delhi slums. During the afternoon, junior school pupils came in to join us in similar activities.

Being invited to attend Malala Day at the UN was a huge privilege. We were able to represent the thousands of school children in the UK who campaigned for the ‘Send My Friend to School’ campaign. On arrival in New York we met and spoke to young  campaigners from all over the world, sharing ideas. A meeting with Philip Parham (UN Deputy Ambassador for UK) was inspiring and we learnt his own ‘take’ on Education for All. Malala Day was incredible; the passion and motivation ignited by that day is hard to explain. To hear Malala and Ban-ki-Moon and to speak personally with Gordon Brown were huge privileges. So many friends were made in New York with whom we maintain regular contact.

Promoting this vital campaign has been a huge honour, and we have enjoyed every minute of it. There are so many people to thank for all their encouragement and support in particular Mrs Hickman from our school, John McLaverty of Oxfam, our local MP Desmond Swayne, Maju Varghese, the Oxfam team in India, the Steve Sinnott Foundation and Karen Garvin of Action Aid. There are many others that have supported us as well, so thank you to you all.

We have learnt a great deal about people, poverty and advocacy and we know that our experiences have altered our perceptions and the direction of the rest of our lives. We  believe we have done our utmost to promote further the Send My Friend to school Campaign and know that now we must all work together to make the world a better place through promoting education for all. This is a long and challenging journey but we must live in hope.
The time has come to pass on our role to Maisie Le Masurier and Rebecca Unwin the new Young Ambassadors for 2014. We would both like to congratulate you and wish you a successful year. We can truly say you are in for the time of your life.

We will continue to campaign until all our friends have been sent to school!

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Education For All Conference 2013

'Education for All (EFA) day' was a day spent educating hundreds of thousands of children all across the UK about the barriers that so many face in trying to get what is simply their right, their education. It was a great success and in our EFA a man from Oxfam came and spoke to our students in more detail as to the problems concerning education in countries like Uganda.

Due to the success of EFA day, the organisers decided that the most proactive schools should be invited up to London, and to the National Union of Teachers' (NUT) headquarters, to be involved with sharing ideas for future EFA days. As we are the young ambassadors, we were invited to speak about everything we had done since undertaking our role, however our jobs would have been a lot harder if we had not had the support of our Global Campaigners, .  Therefore we decided to invite Jade Wardle and Iona Spencer-Dingle to speak about all of their own achievements, including their visit to parliament on Malala Day.  We first started with our life changing, fact finding mission to Delhi where we gained bounds of knowledge as to the barriers that children face in India whilst they try to fight for what they know they are allowed. We then moved through all we have done since India, from our speech at the NUT, to our own EFA day and right up until our latest engagement, a meeting with Lynne Featherstone MP (the Undersecretary of State for the Department For International Development).

After our presentation, and the presentation of another school who have made a partnership with a school in Nepal, we began the organised break out sessions. Three of the six schools went to their stalls, which had information about all their campaigning ideas and success, and prepared to present to the three other schools who were allowed to walk around from stall to stall gaining information for the development of their campaigns. Then, after thirty minutes, it all switched around with the schools who were browsing returning to their tables and the other schools becoming the browsers. From these sessions we gained invaluable information for us to develop our campaign and we're sure that you will be seeing us use it ion the future.

The day was, as already said, a great success and a time that we will not forget as we met and made friends wit so many inspirational people, like last years Young Ambassadors who are still going strong and campaigning for the goal shared by so many, Education for ALL!

We'd like to thank Jade and Iona for coming with us, the Steve Sinnott Foundation for organising the day, the other schools who attended for giving us so many ideas and of course Mrs Hickman for her continued support and organisation to make all our visits off site possible.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Meeting with Lynne Featherstone Undersecretary of State at the Department for International Development

‘We were thrilled to be invited to speak with Lynne Featherstone, Parliamentary Undersecretary of State at the Department for International Development along with other students from across the UK. We all wanted to ask the minister what the UK government is doing to make sure every child worldwide gets the chance to go to school.

The four of us from Ringwood School travelled on the train to London and kept busy during the long journey by making plans for the meeting.  We were joined by two of the global campaigners Katy Barrett and Samantha Kimberley. We were all travelling to London to represent half a million young people in the UK deeply concerned about the 57 million children worldwide who are missing out on education.

We were invited to Oxfam HQ for the morning, with the meeting with Lynne Featherstone scheduled for the afternoon. The primary objective at Oxfam was to prepare a collage representing all the campaigning by Ringwood School and the other four schools. The collage was then to be presented to Lynne Featherstone. We found the thought of the collage daunting:  how could we summarise all this campaigning in one small collage? ‘Just do the highlights’ said Oxfam’s John McLaverty. Easier said than done!  Although we had an obvious edge with this wealth of material we were careful to let the other schools to show what they had done in their own brilliant campaigns.  We really enjoyed hearing about other schools’ campaigns; everyone got on really well and we decided that making the collage was fun.  There was room for everything and, as the photo shows, the final piece looked great!

Next came the high point of the day; our private meeting with the Minister. We went by cab to the Department for International Development, DFID, in Whitehall and were given smart identity badges. Sam quickly introduced everyone and our photos were taken with the minister together with the collage we’d made earlier. The meeting with Ms Featherstone followed and we enjoyed  posing questions such as, “How can we ensure that children who are disabled get the education they need?” and, after seeing how poor some teaching had been in Delhi, “How can we make sure that teaching is of good quality?”  The meeting was chaired by Sam.  He had the challenging task of keeping the meeting to time, and learning everyone’s name in order to call them up to question the minister at the appropriate time.

Ms Featherstone warmed to our questions and answered them as honestly as she could. We learnt a great deal about what the government is doing to try to get all children into education by 2015. She admitted that this goal would not be met!  At the end of the meeting we formally presented Lynne Featherstone with their collage and discussed each school’s efforts to help the Send My Friend to School campaign.  We knew Ms Featherstone had been involved in the campaign in her constituency so were slightly surprised to learn that at this point she seemed completely unaware that we had been to India on a visit to the slums!
Ms Featherstone said,”It was fantastic to meet such passionate children who care so much about the world they are growing up in and helping to shape. I was impressed by their understanding of the importance of education and their commitment to help less fortunate children across the world receive the education they deserve. Education acts as a ladder out of poverty and helps young people reach their full potential. Making sure children in developing countries get a good education is a priority for DFID and we are working with other countries to make sure that education is an important part of the new set of development goals to be agreed in 2015.” 

We left Whitehall with Zahra and Aaron from Kingsbury High and much enjoyed their company.  After photos under Big Ben, we swapped Facebook and Twitter details and went our separate ways. What a fantastic day. Thank you Oxfam and GCE UK for giving us this great opportunity”

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Wanted: young campaigners to go on a fact-finding trip to Uganda!

Wanted: young campaigners to go on a fact-finding trip to Uganda!

A national competition to find the Young Global Education Ambassadors for 2014 is now open to schoolchildren in the UK. The winners will have the opportunity to visit Uganda in early 2014 with the charity Sightsavers and the Global Campaign for Education. 

They are looking for two bright, articulate and passionate and 14/15 year olds (Year 10 pupils) to apply through their school for the Steve Sinnott Award. 

This competition will give the winners, and their teacher, an amazing trip to Uganda to investigate the barriers to education, particularly for children with disabilities. This competition is open to all secondary schools and applications where one or both of the candidates has a special educational need or disability are encouraged.

Find out more:

Millie says: 'This year has been the best year of my life. I loved every minute of it but especially seeing first-hand the education challenges in India and participating in Malala Day. It is demanding and very hard work but such an important campaign deserves such commitment. I urge you to apply, GoodLuck!'

Child Refugees of Syria

Over the last two weeks we have been running assemblies and tutor time activities to raise awareness of the thousands of children how have become refugees as a result of the conflict. There is hardly a day that goes by that the Syrian conflict doesn't reach headline news across the world. It is so important that we do not forget about the thousands of children who have been affected and as a result are missing out on their education.

We delivered with the help of our global campaigns team assemblies to most year groups telling them of the children who are all too often forgotten about! 

We told a story of Israa, a 13-year-old from Syria. Israa and her family were forced to flee Syria after civil war broke out in March 2011 and it became too dangerous for them to stay. The photo shows her in her old home.  They now live in the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan.
She says,
Before the war started we spent our time playing outside the house but after it started we had to stay in all the time. We missed a lot of school —sometimes we only went once per week.”
“Bombs fell next to my house. We heard they were raiding our village,  and that if they found people hiding they would kill them. The electricity was cut off; we only had 15-30 minutes every three days.”
“We couldn't bring anything with us to the refugee camp. We brought nothing but one change of clothes and one pair of shoes each. We left everything else behind and my mum’s told me that now everything’s gone - it’s been destroyed.”
“If we return to Syria, we will live in a tent while we rebuild our house. We lost our house but we have our lives.” 

Since 2011, 1.9 million Syrian children in years 1-9 have lost their schooling with 3,000 schools damaged or destroyed. Over 1 million children are now refugees of Syria.  Over 3 million children are still living in Syria in dire situations. These are only a few of the shocking statistics!
All students watched a short film:

This talks about the ‘Education without boarder’ plan to give 300,000 child refugees of Syria education in the countries they have fled to.

Students really engaged within the activities. In tutor groups they were ask to think about the rights of children in Syria and whether they are being met or not.

I feel the activities and assemblies have once again reminded everyone in the school of how lucky we are to live in England and the importance of providing support and education to all children regardless of their situation.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Poulner Junior School

At the end of last school year we ran an ‘Education For All Day’ style morning for Poulner junior school. First we talked to them about the campaign and the desperate need that so many children have for education globally before asking them to complete their own teacher puppets to add to the growing collection we have made. As with all of the people we have run the activity with the characteristics of their ideal teacher included funny, enthusiastic, kind and so on but they also managed to think a little bit deeper and added traits such as qualified and understanding.

Whilst we, with the global campaigners, were running the morning’s events and activities John McLaverty, Nicola Cadbury and a camera man were also visiting and filming the day unfold and all the children getting involved with making their teachers.

After the Poulner children had gone back to their school with their puppets to send to their local MP with them, Nicola and John interviewed different members of the global campaigns group to ask them how they had been involved with campaigning events like Education For All day which was held on 21st June 2013. They also wanted to find out why the campaigners felt passionate about education as well as what they had learnt on their short time as advocates for the Global Campaign for Education.

Then we were whisked away to film part of the thank you film to all you campaigners who have made a difference to millions of children across our world. Here is the link…

Anyway, after our nice time in the holidays we must all knuckle down and get back to campaigning as there is still the remaining 57 MILLION children who are deprived of the right to an education.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Petition for Nigeria's children

Today, 10.5 million children in Nigeria will not go to school.  In fact, Nigeria has the highest out-of-school population in the world.  And increasing levels of violence has been targeted at children for wanting to go to school and learn. 
Please sign our petition below showing our support for President Jonathan's commitment to education, and urging immediate action so that all children and youth have the opportunity to learn and thrive in society.

Join me in uniting for education once again. Sign this letter to President Jonathan pledging your support to the cause -- it takes just one click.

Dear President Jonathan,
Within the last few weeks, school children and teachers have been gunned down and others firebombed and burned to death - simply for wanting to go to school.
We stand united with UN Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown, and teenage education campaigner, Malala Yousafzai, in supporting the your call for safe schools for the 10.5 million out-of-school children in the country.
With the highest out-of-school population in the world, we ask the government, with the support of the international community, to deliver education so these children can go to school. We ask that conditional cash transfer programs be implemented at the state level for families so that 900,000 girls can enrol into school now. We also request that the state governors and their ministers draw up plans for universal education, and leading up to the next budget cycle, the national government develop financial incentives for state level results to ensure every child goes to school by 2015.
Every Nigerian child deserves the chance to go to school and learn.

Act Now.