The Fierce Urgency of Now. Education Cannot Wait.

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Photo: A World at School

Martin Luther King was not a man who tolerated silence on important issues. A year before his death, he called for a breaking of the silence on the Vietnam War and a recognition of 'the fierce urgency of now.' His speech was biblical and revolutionary. It was a call to action for the times. The echoes of this sentiment can be heard on this historical day as well.

King preached, 'These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression and out of the wombs of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before...'

This morning at 6:30 am in Istanbul, Former UK Prime Minister and UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon were joined by dozens of senior foreign ministry officials, private sector and civil society leaders from around the world to kick off the World Humanitarian Summit.

Why would all of these leaders meet before dawn in an already packed schedule? What could not wait?

Education.

Amidst the important conversations about the need to reform the humanitarian system is a growing understanding of the protective and life-saving impact of including education as part of the response in disasters and emergencies. This afternoon the new Education Cannot Wait fund will launch.

Children and youth who are out-of-school without hope of returning are far more vulnerable to exploitation from traffickers and extremist groups and far more at risk of violence, abuse, child marriage and domestic slavery. Education changes this by changing both the calculations that families make when they are struggling to survive and the real and perceived opportunities of children and youth.

Gordon Brown noted 'we know we are here today dealing with the problems faced by the most vulnerable and children in the world and we know what to do. And we must do it urgently.'

'We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today... said Dr. King, 'We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.'

When we speak of education in emergencies we speak of children torn from the arms of their mothers, families blown apart figuratively and literally. We speak of children born into trauma and youth growing up too fast in the midst of violence and devastation. For these children and youth we must be ambitious and we must not delay.

As Dr. King said, 'In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late... Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity... We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: "Too late."

Let us not be too late.

Today the Education Cannot Wait fund will launch -- a milestone in the fight to realize the right to education for all children everywhere. Leaders will step up to commit resources towards addressing the $8.5 billion annual gap. At the high-level breakfast meeting this morning, the Global Business Coalition for Education announced it will mobilize $100 million over the next year from the private sector for the fund.

Let us hope that other leaders step up as well in this fiercely urgent moment.

Who is stepping up today? Find out at: www.aworldatschool.org/fundtracker