By Lauren La Rose
Their languages, cultures and locales couldn’t be more disparate, but on Wednesday,
schoolkids from Bangladesh to Norway to the Solomon Islands were universally linked by a common cause: the right to education for all.
Thousands of Canadian students joined an estimated five million of their peers around the globe who stepped into the role of teacher as part of the “World’s Biggest Lesson,” teaching peers, educators and politicians about quality education as a human right for children worldwide.
Organizers said they broke a previous Guinness World Record set by the Global Campaign for Education in 2003 when more than two million people in over 100 countries focused on access for girls and women to education.
This time, the lessons for the Global Campaign for Education Action Week were aimed primarily at boosting awareness of the 72 million children and 226 million adolescents who are currently not in school.
At an event at the University of Toronto, Natalia Skikavich, 12, said she was surprised to learn the number of children who aren’t in school and realizes how lucky Canadians are to get an education. It’s something she said other children deserve as well to help their future.
“When children grow up, they need a chance to get a good job to raise their own families and experience things you need in life,” she said. “If you want to have a good career, you need to be in school and you need to learn.”
Karen Mundy, chair of the Canadian campaign, said the lesson allows kids to be in the driver’s seat teaching adults – something that is always important.
“Children also get a chance to link up to kids around the world and try out their own active citizenship, try to make sure that they learn how to get attention of world leaders and it’s been very, very effective.”
Mundy plans to meet with parliamentarians in Ottawa on Tuesday to highlight the issue during an event organized by the Canadian Teachers’ Federation. The federation is among more than 20 organizations associated with the Canadian Global Campaign for Education.
At the U of T event, attended by Toronto New Democrat MP Olivia Chow, some 76 students from two public schools were treated to a live performance set of Japanese folk music and taiko drums before taking to the stage to lead their lesson.
Students incorporated both dramatic and oratory skills to pose and answer questions about the benefits of education, such as access to employment and greater earning power, as well as potential barriers, like poverty and gender.
They also provided startling statistics of the number of adults (750 million) and women (one in four) not able to read and write.
Organizers said some 11,000 Canadians in 289 locations participated in the lessons Wednesday.
In an Ottawa classroom, Grade 3 students expressed concern to their MP, New Democrat Paul Dewar, that children around the world are missing an education due to war and conflict.
In Nunavut, the lesson was taught simultaneously in English and Inuktitut.
In Toronto, Janarthan Chandranathan, 11, said when it comes to education, no child should miss out.
“I wanted to take part because I wanted to show children all over the world that they have rights to a good education.”