How do you educate children in the world’s poorest countries? It’s a towering question and one that might be solved, at least in part, by a perhaps unlikely trifecta of star power, social media and good old-fashioned advocacy.
Last night in Ottawa (June 7), several key players in the global education gambit converged on the Fairmont Château Laurier where, among other things, they screened a video shot last January in Malawi showing pop singer Rihanna touring overcapacity schools and meeting kids.
Rihanna has already successfully leveraged social media for change. In the lead-up to a performance last fall at the annual anti-poverty Global Citizen Festival benefit concert in Central Park, she called on her fans to ask the Canadian and French governments to increase their commitments to education in emergencies.
Active Tweeter Prime Minister Justin Trudeau felt the online heat with Canada pledging $20 million in the Education Cannot Wait Fund while France committed $2 million.
Now Rihanna is at it again. In 2016, her Clara Lionel Foundation partnered the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and international social advocacy organization, Global Citizen “to tackle the global education crisis on a broader scale through advocacy,” according to a release. Representatives from both those groups were in Ottawa last night.
And though Rihanna didn't join Hugh Evans, CEO of Global Citizen, and Julia Gillard, board chair of the GPE and former Australian Prime Minister – all of whom joined her on the Malawi trip – the singer is once again calling on her fans and global citizens to support GPE’s next replenishment effort to raise $3.1 billion, from donors around the world, including governments.
The release adds that these funds could help GPE bring quality education to a staggering 870 million children in 89 countries between 2018 and 2020.
As for last night's event, which also featured a performance by Montreal rocker and philanthropist Sam Roberts, the agenda is clear: despite encouraging progress made since 2000, 263 million children and adolescents are out of school, including 130 million girls who are still less likely than boys to enrol in school.
Funds must be raised to help, particularly among prosperous G20 nations like Canada. Rihanna, also an ambassador for the Global Partnership for Education, aims to be part of the solution.
For those keeping score, other attendees at last night's Global Citizen Unplugged: Call for Canada to Support Education at Global Citizen and Global Partnership for Education Event include Alice P. Albright, CEO of the Global Partnership for Education, the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development & La Francophonie, and Nesmy Manigat, Advisor in Education, Office of the Prime Minister, Haiti.