Nobel laureates and leading human rights activists Tuesday issued a call for the creation of a Global Fund for Education. They say hundreds of millions of young children and adolescents are unable to attend school and about 770-million adults remain illiterate.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former president of Ireland Mary Robinson and Professor Muhammad Yunas, founder of the Grameen Bank, have written a letter to President Obama and the other G8 leaders. They're asking them to follow through on a pledge made by Mr. Obama to provide at least $2 billion to create a global fund for education. The G8 leaders hold a summit next week in Italy.
Archbishop Tutu praised President Obama's pledge and US support.
"Because of what you did in the United States, (We) felt a new surge of hope. And despite the fact that there has been this economic downturn, this flame of hope still burns high," he says.
Something quite exciting
Tutu says there are long range benefits. Girls, who become mothers after having five years of formal education, are much more likely to have healthier children.
"It's a fantastic return on that investment," says Tutu.
Joining Archbishop Tutu in Tuesday's calling for a Global Fund for Education is Desmond Birmingham, a visiting fellow at the Center for Global Development.
"We have a tremendous opportunity here. I think the good news is many developing countries around the world have got sound education plans in place. And they are investing their own money in those plans and they are making remarkable progress," he says.
Success in Africa
"Rwanda, 10 years after the genocide, more than doubled the number of children in school and reached almost a hundred percent of their girl children going to school," he says.
Niger is another example, despite hard economic times.
"Niger has recruited literally tens of thousands of additional teachers to help get children in school," he says.
Birmingham agrees with Archbishop Tutu that a good education benefits health and much more.
"It is probably the single most effective intervention to reduce the risk of young women becoming HIV positive and also to help them take greater control over their lives and greater control over when they start families," he says.
"Education has also been shown to make a major contribution to better governance in countries. Educated young people demand and expect good government and democratic and open government. And they are far less vulnerable to persuasion of extremists,' he says.
He adds, "Many countries around the world are emerging out of conflict and deep war. Educating the young people gives them an opportunity…to do something different and something better and take control of their lives and build peace for their country."