When I was seventeen years old I was traveling between the Zambian city of Lusaka and Kitwe on the Copperbelt, by bus.
As we travelled out of the city it became very clear that the country was on high alert as there were military checkpoints everywhere. About 100km into our journey and after numerous checkpoints some young soldiers refused to accept my ID documents, at one of them. I was the only foreigner on the bus and they thought they had found an enemy soldier in civilian clothes.
The soldiers immediately handcuffed me and told the bus to go without me. It was in the middle of nowhere and it was late in the day. They were totally agitated and threatened to shoot me!
I was in big trouble.
When they learned I could speak the local language they became even more agitated, accusing me of being a spy.
After I had been held there for several hours, surrounded by screaming soldiers, a senior military officer driving a jeep came along and asked what was happening.
He looked at my papers and ordered my immediate release. He then drove me personally to my destination some 300km away!
When we got there, he said something I will never forget:
__”The reason I drove you all the way is because it was my only way of ensuring that you would not be killed at one of these roadblocks. We are at war with the guys next door (Rhodesia) and our soldiers are very nervous at the moment. Unfortunately, some of them cannot read. We have to ensure that in future everyone in the army can read properly.”
Years later when I saw child soldiers being recruited in Liberia and the DRC, I always remembered that harrowing experience. I imagined the terror of being confronted with uneducated kids with guns who cannot recognise a simple passport. Many people probably lost their lives as a result on incidents similar to mine.
Boko Haram, Al Shabaab and other militant groups are all able to thrive when the educational systems don’t exist to provide proper education.
There is really little we can do to develop our nations if we do not tackle education first. There is little we can do to ensure our security if we do not tackle education first.
Education is the key.
Please sign this petition. Go now to upforschool.org and sign.
The Petition: “We, the world’s youth, teachers, parents and global citizens appeal to our governments to keep their promise, made at the United Nations in 2000, to ensure all out-of-school children gain their right to education before the end of 2015. We are standing up to bring an end to the barriers preventing girls and boys from going to school, including forced work and early marriage, conflict and attacks on schools, exploitation and discrimination. All children deserve the opportunity to learn and achieve their potential. We are #UpForSchool.”
Signing will only take you a minute. Sharing with your friends will take even less time. We are really close to the 10m target.