Syrian education activist Bana Alabed is fuelling change in children’s rights to education, hoping to gain support from nations to ensure no child’s education is affected by war.
You may remember the nine-year-old from more than two years ago, where she and her mother Fatemah, documented their lives from Aleppo on Twitter when Russian airstrikes were at their peak.
The tweeting started in 2016 when Bana was just seven and included videos which were disturbing at times – documenting illness, bombings, displacement and death – attracting many people to follow her tragic story.
After desperately tweeting world leaders to convey the lives children of Aleppo were enduring, she finally gained traction from Turkey, who in December 2016, evacuated Bana and her family from Syria and in May 2017, granted them citizenship when Aleppo fell back under the control of the Syrian government.
Now, she is calling for worldwide peace and essential education for every child.
At the seventh annual Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai last month, Bana was invited as an honorary guest to speak on the event’s theme of ‘Who is changing the world?’ – to focus on a new generation of progress-makers sculpting the future.
“I want to be a teacher, because teachers are number one in our lives, without them, the world will be nothing,” she explained, “It’s a great honour to be here to add the voice of children but the world is not doing enough for education in Syria. We have lots of guns in Syria, but we need more schools.”
Bana spoke eloquently to over 1,500 people from the public, private and social areas including five former Presidents and Prime Ministers and 40 education ministers about the injustices children in war-torn countries undergo.
And it is clear why Bana was chosen to address national leaders – to express and resolve through her own harrowing story.
The founder of the Global Education and Skills Forum, Sunny Varkey, said by sharing the stories of grassroots activists, campaigners and philanthropists, society can have a much smarter debate on how to tackle the challenges on a global scale.
“Our fervent hope is that education leaders gathered at GESF 2019 will be able to learn from these pioneers to help make that change needed to give every child their birthright; a good education,” he added.
Bana’s reporting from Syria and her action since have no doubt opened minds and conversation to educating society on the reality of lives in terror-ridden countries thousands of miles away, and the devastating effect it can have on a child’s education.
At the event, she warned: “Millions of children didn’t have good education, many children never went to school, others have to work for their families so they can get food.
“Lack of education makes children useless and hopeless. They want to be something, they want to be teachers, doctors, but without education, they won’t be anything.”
Despite the nine-year-old activist now having Turkish citizenship and is safely attending school, her fight for child education has far from come to an end.
Since arriving in Turkey in December 2016, she has tweeted most days about the Syrian children who she feels she left behind and documents the new life she should have always been living.
Tweeting from the GESF event on March 24, she wrote: “I had the opportunity to address 1,500 delegates @GESForum about the need of education for the Syrian children. Syrian children will be a lost generation if they don’t get education now.”