The Salvation Army has pledged its support to one of the biggest petitions in history - #UpForSchool - demanding that world leaders take immediate action to get every girl and boy into school. Salvationists, friends and students of Salvation Army education establishments are being called on to join the five million people who have already signed the petition, with the signatures being gathered together in time for the church and charity's 150th anniversary congress in London in July.
Before the end of the last millennium, world leaders agreed a promise to get every child into school by 2015 but progress has stalled.
Now, through #UpForSchool, young people, non-governmental organisations, civil society, teachers, faith-based organisations and more than 100 of the world s leading businesses are coming together to make a call for action for all children, no matter who they are or where they are born. The petition will be used to show world leaders that there is a movement of people standing up for the 58 million children around the world currently excluded from school because they are child labourers, married too young, discriminated against, exploited or living in war-torn regions where their schools, school children and teachers are under attack.
The Salvation Army's international leader, General André Cox, is supportive of the petition and hopes that The Salvation Army in 126 countries can mobilise people to add their signatures. He says: 'The greatest resource in the world today is not oil, gold or money it's the millions of young people whose potential is yet to be realised. We need to empower them, support them and engage with them. School provides a route out of poverty, and good education is vital if every child is to have the opportunity to reach his or her full potential.'
The Salvation Army has been involved in education since its early days. In 2015, as it celebrates its 150th anniversary, it runs 2,700 schools, colleges and universities worldwide, with 18,485 teachers providing an education to 686,166 pupils including a large number who wouldn't otherwise be able to go to school.
On Friday 3 July the main session of the Boundless Congress will have a social justice focus, and the Salvation Army petitions will be collated and presented on that day. Each Salvation Army territory, region and command is asked to encourage its members, officers, employees, staff and others - including children over the age of seven - to sign the petition, showing that they care deeply about the transformative power of education for every child.
Lieut-Colonel Dean Pallant (Director of The Salvation Army's International Social Justice Commission) points out that if these pupils and teachers signed the petition, along with every Salvation Army officer and every senior and junior member, they would add almost 2.5 million signatures! 'How many signatures are possible if every Salvationist invited their friends to sign the petition?' he asks.
The #UpForSchool campaign is organised by a unique global coalition called A World at School (www.aworldatschool.org), co-founded by Sarah Brown with her husband, former UK Prime Minister the Rt Hon Gordon Brown, which brings together NGOs, teachers, businesses, civil society groups and faith communities around the world to work together to get every child into school .
Ben Hewitt, Director of Campaigns at A World at School, says: 'We are excited to be in partnership with The Salvation Army as part of the global movement. Faith communities have played a vital role in many of the great social justice movements that have transformed the lives of millions of people around the world and it is inspiring to be working together on this historic campaign to get every girl and boy into school and learning. No child should be denied an education and together we are building a message that no world leader can ignore.'
The Millennium Development Goals, including the pledge to provide schooling for all children, were set to be achieved by 2015. Not all of the goals set in 2000 have been achieved, and world leaders will meet in September 2015 at the United Nations (UN) to agree goals for the next 15 years. The #UpForSchool petition, including all the signatures collected by The Salvation Army, will be presented by Gordon Brown to world leaders at the UN in September 2015. It is hoped this will be the largest petition ever.
The petition states: 'We, the world's youth, teachers, parents and global citizens appeal to our governments to keep their promise, made at the United Nations in 2000, to ensure all out-of-school children gain their right to education before the end of 2015. We are standing up to bring an end to the barriers preventing girls and boys from going to school, including forced work and early marriage, conflict and attacks on schools, exploitation and discrimination. All children deserve the opportunity to learn and achieve their potential. We are #UpForSchool.'
There are two ways people can sign the petition:
1. A paper petition can be printed from one of the many different language files available atwww.salvationarmy.org/upforschool. Petitions should be sent to the relevant territorial/command/regional headquarters, from where the A World At School organisation will arrange for them to be collected and taken to London (headquarters contact details can be found via www.salvationarmy.org). The cut-off date for signed paper petitions to be at headquarters is 30 June 2015.
2. An electronic petition is online at www.salvationarmy.org/upforschool, and can be signed electronically until 8am (UK time) on Friday 3 July.
Resources to help promote the petition, produced by A World At School, can be downloaded from http://bit.ly/1CT1vAW