The hidden agenda of the G20: global education

07/06/2017 05:51 am ET Updated Jul 06, 2017

By Ben Hewitt, Director of Campaigns, Theirworld

Two things are guaranteed on Friday when the leaders of the 20 most powerful countries in the world gather in Germany for a Summit to discuss global priorities.

The first is that the world’s media will be obsessed with every little interaction between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin at the G20 talks. Every moment will be analysed, every nod and wink examined. Other leaders will be watched too. How will Angela Merkel manage it all? How will France’s Emmanuel Macron and Canada’s Justin Trudeau interact with the other leaders?

The second thing is that there will be protests and the media will love showing dramatic pictures of anti-capitalist campaigners, normally wearing Guy Fawkes masks, running amok in Hamburg.

Without a doubt these two things will dominate social media and news, so it is not a surprise that people remain blissfully unaware of what is actually on the G20 agenda. And many will be left wondering if anything useful actually emerges from this annual boondoggle.

Well, there is one item on the G20 agenda that can actually make a difference - global education. Now that may sound terribly dull compared to sharing a witty meme about Trump and Putin, but world leaders have this year recognised the scale of the education crisis facing girls and boys around the world. An innovative idea is being put to them that could dramatically increase the amount of funding going to global education. If this is backed by those 20 leaders it would result in an additional $10 billion dollars a year for educating 285 million children from pre-primary through to secondary.

<strong>Turkish students and Syrian refugees are educated together at Istoc Primary School which was visited by Theirworld</s
Theirworld
Turkish students and Syrian refugees are educated together at Istoc Primary School which was visited by Theirworld Theirworld

Having worked on a number of anti-poverty campaigns I know that the big numbers can be quite numbing. A ‘billion’ this and a ‘million’ that. Do we have any way to really understand what it means for 285 million children to go to school for the first time ever, what a transformation it will mean to their families for generations to come? How do we realise that enormity of what is actually being discussed behind closed doors at the G20, away from all of the razzmatazz of the group photos and expensive dinners?

To do this you have to first imagine a child you know. Now imagine them growing up without school, and then being forced into work, early marriage or being recruited as a child soldier – just because of who they are or where they are born. Or imagine an individual child who is excluded from school simply because they are a girl, or because they have a disability, or because they are of a particular religion, ethnic group or caste.

Then imagine being able to tell that child that their future will be different. Imagine telling that child they can go to school, get a job and have options for what they do in life. Imagine that child being the first child in their family to have ever gone to school, the first girl in the family to have gone to school. Now THAT is the liberating power of education. THAT is what is on the agenda of the G20. THAT will be missing from your social media feed and news headlines. And THAT is more important than whether Donald Trump gives Vladimir Putin a sneaky wink.

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