Messeh Kamara joins United Nations Special Envoy on Global Education Gordon Brown in Supporting Education for Every Child
LONDON 3 September, 2012 — Sierra Leone’s emerging young leader and human rights activist, Messeh Kamara, aged 25 joined former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, recently appointed as the UN Special Envoy on Global Education at an International Conference in urging world leaders to keep their promise to fund and fulfill the goal of education for all children. (Photo: Messeh Kamara and Dr. Rowan Williams the Archbishop of Canterbury)
The Conference was hosted by The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams at the magnificent hall of Lambeth Palace, traditionally the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The meeting was attended by a range of high-level speakers and representatives from Islamic Relief, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, UNICEF, Save the Children, World Vision, the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack, the Education Cluster and the Child Protection Working Group in Geneva, and the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa. The audience included representatives from government, from NGOs and human rights groups, from faith communities.
Speaking at the Conference, Messeh Kamara recounted his experience of growing up in Sierra Leone amid war, poverty and how education is still a challenge in Sierra Leone, but he praised the people of Sierra Leone for the progress they have made since the end of the war, commending previous and current Government for advancing education, especially for the girl child.
“All children deserve access to education, which helps them escape poverty, realize their potential, and being able to become leaders of today and tomorrow,” said Messeh Kamara.
Messeh called on world leaders to keep their promises and ensure early childhood care and education for every child – right from the start. He said education breaks the vicious cycle of poverty. It is the most powerful tool that vulnerable and marginalised children have to change their future.
Messeh Kamara, Former President of the Children’s Forum Network gave a personal account of his experience as a child when his primary school was attacked:
“Children were most affected by war and education was hit the hardest. I was going to school one morning but the rebels had already occupied the school and I had to run. It was a lost decade. But I was fortunate – after many years I was able to return to school”.
In a remarkable story of resilience and hope, Messeh who is also the founder of Young Leaders (Sierra Leone) and a youth leader in the Commonwealth is now pursuing his dream of becoming an international lawyer, specialising in human rights.
Gordon Brown (in photo above) – recently appointed as UN Special Envoy on Global Education – spoke about the importance of education as being the only way countries in the developing world (and in particular countries affected by conflict) can break the cycle of poverty. Education is what provides a sustainable way of improving the economies in these countries, by giving children opportunities and hope for the future. He urged the need for ‘drastic action’ and more investment in education if there is to be any chance of meeting the Millennium Development Goals in 2015.
Dr Williams reflected on the day’s inputs, saying:
“This is an issue which takes us to the heart of some of the most disturbing and shocking elements in international life because in recent years, perhaps more than ever, we have seen the disruption of children’s education not only as one of the side effects of conflict but quite often as a deliberate tool of terror.”
In his concluding remarks, the Archbishop welcomed “the practical, robust and constructive recommendations” from the Conference, which he believed “could help those who most need the hope, positivity, creativity and sense of agency that education can give.”
The Conference called for all sections of society to be galvanised to ensure quality education for all children by 2015. Of the 61 million children currently not accessing education, 40% live in fragile and conflict-affected states. For these children, it is not just the challenge of being able to access decent education – in many situations of conflict they also face the trauma of attacks on their schools.
The urgent need was highlighted for increased funding and action on education and child protection in communities affected by conflict. The Conference identified priorities for the protection, prevention, monitoring and recovery from attacks on education. The discussion also reflected on the role of faith communities in education and child protection in situations of conflict – and how these needed to be integrated into the wider humanitarian response.
Messeh Kamara is a human rights activist and global advocate for the needs of children affected by armed conflict. This year he has contributed to various UN events, including the ECOSOC High-level Development Cooperation Forum in New York, at the invitation of its president, the Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva. At 14, he helped establish, and was elected president of the ‘Children’s Forum Network (CFN)’ in Sierra Leone, a democratic, child-led organisation under the patronage of Government, UNICEF, and Plan International. Branches of the organisation were established throughout the country and the Forum chaired children’s inputs to the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the UN Voice of Children Radio. Messeh started the Young Leaders of Sierra Leone Organisation (YLSL), which was officially launched by the then President of the Republic of Sierra Leone. The organisation provides a global platform for Sierra Leonean youth from all walks of life in Sierra Leone and abroad to participate effectively in the development of the country. He also helped establish the Academic Awards Foundation, to offer scholarship and educational materials to underprivileged children. Messeh has also set up a humanitarian organisation – Messeh International, to support children, youth, women affected by conflict, disaster and poverty.
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