What is it?
The #UpforSchool campaign aims to lobby world leaders to do something about the 59 million children around the world who cannot go to school. Since September 2014, A World At School, an initiative run by the international children’s charity Theirworld has been asking people across the world to sign a petition asking governments to ensure all out-of-school children gain their right to education before the end of 2015. The petition will be presented to world leaders by the former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, now a UN Special Envoy for Education, at the UN General Assembly in New York in September. Theirworld was co-founded by Sarah Brown, the wife of the former Prime Minister.
In 2000, world leaders made a promise enshrined in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals to get all children into school and learning by the end of 2015. However, there are still 59 million children out of school because of to child labour, early marriage, conflict and discrimination.
A World At School worked with the brand consultancy The Partners to help it create the campaign’s name, logo and brand identity. Much of the lobbying has taken place through Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. For example, on International Women’s Day in March celebrities were asked to post a picture of themselves at school and ask people to sign the #UpforSchool petition. In June #UpForSchool partnered with the makers of the Angry Birds video game to create an interactive game to create more awareness of the petition.
How successful has it been?
The campaign has generated support from celebrities including the singers Justin Bieber and Rod Stewart, the actors Minnie Driver and Geena Davies, and several Nobel Peace Prize winners. It has 8 million signatures so far, making it the biggest-ever petition focused on education.
Achievements have included gaining the backing of the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawak Sharif for a plan for safe schools in Pakistan; securing the safe reopening of schools in West Africa after closures following the Ebola outbreak; and securing the reopening of schools closed due to war and conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
What the charity says:
James Cox, senior digital and campaigns manager at World At School, says: "#UpForSchool was designed as a distributed campaign that could be picked up, adapted and tailored to anyone's particular angle on education - and we've seen how powerful it is when many different groups - from young campaigners to Angry Birds - can speak to their own audiences in their own words but still unite for a common goal."
Third Sector verdict:
A World At School deserves praise for not waiting until its petition was ready to present at the UNGA before taking action, which has led to hundreds of children and young people being back in education. It has mobilised 500 "youth ambassadors" to work on its behalf in 80 countries, thereby empowering young people to protect their own education and that of their peers. Despite the huge number of signatures gathered, however, the campaign has had a relatively low profile in the UK thus far, despite coverage in the Daily Mail, the Guardian and the Mirror. Gordon and Sarah Brown’s involvement should perhaps be exploited more to secure additional support in the UK ahead of the petition’s delivery in September.