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World's oldest pupil call on world leaders

World's oldest pupil joins 'buddies' to call on world leaders to stop failing the 100 million out-of-school children

Eighty-five year old Kimani Ng'ang'a, the world's oldest elementary school student, toured the leading landmarks of New York yesterday to highlight the plight of over 100 million children worldwide who cannot attend school due to poverty.

Source: Global Campaign for Education

Presenting messages from millions of children worldwide, Kimani travelled from his small village in Kenya to tell the United Nations to "send my friend to school."

Starting in New York City's Battery Park, where a selection from five-million cut-out buddies, Kimani travelled across New York in a yellow school bus to publicise the campaign. The three and a half million cut-out buddies were made by children across the globe to represent their 100 million peers who are denied education as part of the Global Camapign for Education's (GCEs), Global Action Week 2005.

"It's my life dream to make sure nobody has to wait as long as I did to receive an education. It's a basic human right," he said as the world's media followed him.

The journey served to highlight the glaring fact that 100 million boys and girls are denied a basic education.

At 4:00pm, the bus made its final stop across from the United Nations at Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza, where Mrs. Nane Annan, wife of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, received a virtual shower of buddies, each of which contained a personal message calling for action to ensure all children receive an education.

The target of the only Millennium Development Goal for the year 2005 was to enrol an equal number of girls and boys worldwide into school - yet as of today, two-thirds of the children who have never been to school are girls. The glaring failure to meet this goal is at risk of being ignored later this week at the UN review summit.

Mr. Kimani and the Global Campaign for Education are campaigning for the countries of the world, supported by the UN, to give all children a primary education, by enacting the right policies and providing extra financial support. In Africa today 50% of girls do not graduate from primary school.

Kailash Satyarthi, President of the Global Campaign for Education, says:

"Five million children from all over the world have sent their message to the world's leaders - urging them to make sure that all children in the world can go to school. Poverty will only be eradicated once all children have a basic education and - with it - the opportunity to claim their rights in life."

Early signs are that the UN and countries of the world will not be able to deliver on their target for universal primary education - a key Millennium Development Goal (MDG) set in 2000.

The first five-year target, being reviewed at next week's world summit, is for the same number of girls as boys to go to school. This five-year target has not been delivered in more than 70 countries.

Tragically there are still more than 100 million children out of school today - 60% of them are girls and at current rates of progress it will be 2150 before Africa meets the targets of getting all children into school.

It is absolutely crucial that these goals are met. If every child in the world completed primary education, at least 7 million HIV infections would be prevented in the next decade.

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