By: Charvi Radia, UNA-USA Membership Intern
Through my internship with UNA-USA national office I attended the 2016 World Bank Youth Summit entitled “Rethinking Education for the New Millennium." The Summit focused on the importance of youth in addressing pressing global challenges. According to the UN, there are currently 1.8 billion people aged 10-24 - making millennials the largest population of youth in our history. As young people in the modern world, we have the biggest challenge of tackling some of the world’s most pressing issues - from the refugee crisis to gender equality. The commonalty in tackling these issues is education as it is the catalyst for change.
We are just 14 years away from fulfilling the agenda of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. One of the goals is to ensure by 2030, that all girls and boys have access to quality primary and secondary. However, what happens when you live in a conflict zone and your school has been destroyed by bombing? How do you prevent an entire generation from being lost? By 2030, about 50% of the world’s poor will be living in conflict zones. There are currently 80 million children living in crisis countries and Syria alone has 3 million internally displaced children.
In times of conflict, education often takes a backseat. There are so many barriers that prevent access to education including financial constraints. Prior to the war, the Syrian pound was 45 SYP per USD. During the war the exchange rate has skyrocketed to over 500 SYP per USD which decreases the purchasing power for both institutions and individuals - making school supplies much more expensive. Children are forced to withdraw from school in order to support their families, preventing them from acquiring the skills needed to make a life for themselves; this only further continues the cycle of poverty. Even after families in conflict zones flee to countries such as Turkey, they must still make ends meet - leaving some children with no alternative but to work in sweat shops just to support their families.
Education is a first step to ending poverty; education must be a priority to advance opportunities. UNA’s Adopt-A-Future Campaign is partnering with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) by providing Americans the ability to raise funds to support refugee education worldwide or to build a classroom for a specific refugee serving school. The campaign will support UNHCR’s overall goal of to providing education access to 3.7 million school-age refugee children who currently do not have access. Together, we can prevent an entire generation from being lost.