In an open letter dated June 16 – the International Day of the African Child – Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf warned there would be no “Africa Rising” without a serious investment in young girls.
The key to addressing some of the world’s most pressing challenges is a quality education for all children, especially girls, the former World Bank official known as “Ma Ellen” declared.
“To not invest in and prioritize girls’ education, we as African leaders are telling our women that we do not care,” she said. “As one of those women, I will not accept this and I urge all our leaders to invest in our children’s future. Investing in girls’ education is not only a moral imperative, it is a smart investment.”
The Liberian leader noted that Africa had the dubious distinction of having the highest rate of girls not in school and in sub-Saharan Africa nearly four out of five poor rural girls are not completing primary school.
“It is unacceptable that in 2014 — less than a year away from the deadline set by the international community to get all children into school — 30 million girls in Africa are denied their basic human right to a quality education. At current rates, the poorest girls in sub-Saharan Africa will only achieve universal primary completion in 2086.”
“Ensuring that every child goes to school, stays in school and learns something of value while there will require firm commitments and action by governments to invest in education and prioritize the education of its girls,” the West African president declared.
While Africa’s economy has grown at more than 5% annually — some of the highest economic growth in the world — leading many to use the phrase of “Africa Rising” — a country’s economic growth does not always lead to development or improvement for its poorest citizens,” she pointed out.
“To truly rise as a nation by building an equitable, sustainable and peaceful society, governments must ensure that spending on education is prioritized and used well.
The Day of the African Child has been celebrated on June 16 every year since 1991, when it was first initiated by the Organisation of African Unity. It honors those who participated in the Soweto Uprising in 1976 on that day. It also raises awareness of the continuing need for improvement of the education provided to African children.
A 10 day call to action can be found at #10DaysToAct, sponsored by Plan International.