On the 18th September a convoy of 27 empty school buses – together with education activist and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Muzoon Almellehan – travelled through the streets of Manhattan to shine a spotlight on the 27 million out-of-school children living in conflict zones.
UNICEF and 19-year-old Almellehan – who was forced to give up her education as their family fled unspeakable violence in Syria in 2013 – came together ahead of the United Nations General Assembly to call on world leaders to prioritize education for every child uprooted by war, violence and poverty.
“Conflict can take away your family, your friends, your routine, your home and your country. But once you give children knowledge, not even conflict can take that away,” said Muzoon, who continued her education while in Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan and is now resettled in the United Kingdom. “Education can never be seen as optional, especially in crises. Without learning, how do we expect children to be the best they can be? We must keep going until we see a world where all children go to school.”
The buses travelled from Brooklyn through lower Manhattan to Times Square carrying powerful messages including “School zones shouldn’t be war zones”; “Tonight’s homework shouldn’t include hiding,” and “Avoiding landmines shouldn’t be an extracurricular activity.”
A staggering 27 million children aged between 6 and 15 years old are currently being denied their right to education due to conflicts not of their making.
Funding shortfalls for education in emergencies are affecting children’s access to school in conflict and natural disasters. Six-months into 2017, UNICEF had only received 12 per cent of the funding required to provide education for children caught up in crises.
“The 27 bus convoy is a compelling metaphor for the 27 million children who are without access to education due to conflict and poverty,” said KBS CCO Patrick Scissons. “Our goal is simply to disrupt culture and fuel conversation about this important issue.”