Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai, who won a Nobel peace prize for education campaigning, called on world leaders on Thursday (21) to give 12 years of free schooling to every child following a major education summit, saying this was critical for girls.
The World Education Forum, which ended in South Korea on Thursday, involved government ministers and non-government organisations from 160 countries to set education goals for the next 15 years to be embedded in a new set of global targets.
They agreed to ensure these goals, which will be finalised at the United Nations in September, state that countries should provide 12 years of publicly-funded primary and secondary education to all children, with nine years free and compulsory.
Malala, 17, who has become a leading education campaigner since surviving an assassination attempt by the Taliban in 2012, urged world leaders to back these goals, saying 12 years of free education was critical, particularly for girls.
“Every day my sisters all over the world are fighting to take their place in the classroom,” Malala said in a statement.
“They want to be the best they can be and give back to their communities and the world. This means they must have the opportunity to receive 12 years of quality education.”
Malala and her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, set up the Malala Fund in 2013 to fight on behalf of 62 million girls around the world denied access to secondary education, and work in Pakistan, Nigeria, Jordan, Lebanon, Sierra Leone and Kenya.
The teenager, who now lives in Britain, was last year awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her education campaigning, jointly with Indian children’s rights activist Kailash Satyarthi.
The UN’s educational arm, Unesco, this month said $22 billion (£14bn) was needed to achieve universal quality education for every child by 2030.
The education targets will become part of the Sustainable Development Goals to be finalised by the UN in September. These replace the Millennium Development Goals and mark a new era in the global fight against poverty.