Nobel Peace Prize winners Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi have joined an urgent appeal to help five million children pushed out of school because of the Ebola epidemic.
The two children's champions, who will collect their shared 2014 award in Oslo on Wednesday, have linked up with United Nations Special Education Envoy Gordon Brown to plead for safe schools in three of the worst-affected countries - Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone - and to call for round-the-world signatures for a new, already one-million-strong #UpForSchool petition, a joint initiative of A World At School and Education International (EI) to ensure every child receives a quality education.
Many of the schools in the three African countries have been closed as a preventative measure to stop the spread of the epidemic, while other schools are being used to care for Ebola patients.
The closures have led the education system to come to a screeching halt. Young people are not being taught, leading many of them to pass their time in the streets or other public places, completely at odds with the public health rationale for closing schools. With five million currently locked out of the classroom, by years-end the number of children out of school worldwide will reach 63 million.
Now the two Nobel winners are joining the #UpForSchool campaign to urge millions across the globe to sign the youth-led petition, which demands an end to child labour, child marriage and discrimination against girls. More than a million have already signed or pledged to sign.
"On the eve of their Nobel Peace Prize award, two of our greatest-ever children's champions - Malala and Kailash - have today agreed to call on their supporters around the world to sign our Up For School petition, with a demand that nothing stand in the way of every child going to school,” said Gordon Brown.
Malala and Kailash will rally millions more to sign up and press for Ebola-related school closures to end and the schools to be reopened as safe schools with teachers given basic training in public health. There should also be twice-daily thermometer check-ups of local pupils as recommended by health experts.