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Pop Star Shakira Urges More US Help For World Education


Colombian pop singer Shakira brought her glamor to Capitol Hill Tuesday, to urge U.S. Congress to approve more spending to help send the world's poor children to school. VOA's Kent Klein reports from Washington.

Shakira is best known for her rhythmic beats, her sexy dance moves and her unique voice, but she had much more serious matters on her mind when she spoke in a crowded hearing room on Capitol Hill.

The Grammy-winning pop diva is the honorary chairman of a week of events sponsored by an advocacy group called the Global Campaign for Education. The organization wants to provide an education for the estimated 300 million young people around the world who do not have access to school, about 72 million of them between the ages of six and 12.

"I grew up in the developing world, and I grew up seeing with my own eyes that children beg for an education, and I met thousands of parents who were desparate to provide an education to their kids without being able to," said Shakira.

Shakira met with leading U.S. lawmakers Tuesday, and asked them to support a bill in Congress that would have the U.S. provide $10 billion over five years for global education.

"In the developing world, where I come from, sometimes education is considered a luxury, a privilege, and not a human right, and this always bothered me. So this is personal to me," she said.

The Education For All Act was introduced last year and has so far failed to pass either house of Congress. Shakira acknowledged that with record-high prices for oil and food, and with a slumping U.S. economy, some lawmakers might think twice about approving the education aid, but she says it's money well spent.

"It is so important because it addresses about every aspect of development, from agriculture, which impacts on nutrition, to preventing disease, like HIV/AIDS and malaria, to improving and creating economic growth and social growth," said Shakira. "Education can really save lives. Education is the key."

Shakira was accompanied at the press conference by about 50 high school and college students from the United States and other countries, who are also urging lawmakers to approve the additional education spending. One of them is high school student Fay Gan from New Jersey.

"Now let me just remind you that this is not a charity, and this is not an act of good will," said Fay Gan. "This is a responsibility that we all have in this room. We must hold our governments accountable for this promise of education."

On Wednesday, the Global Campaign for Education will have an estimated five million students from more than 100 countries taking part in an effort to set a new world record for the greatest number of students learning the same lesson at the same time. The lesson will be about the importance of education.

The effort to persuade developed countries to spend more to send poor children to school has received vocal support from leaders such as British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, World Bank President Robert Zoellick and former South African President Nelson Mandela.