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As children in some parts of the world learn and prepare themselves for a better and brighter future, there remains more than 262 million children and young people around the world who are out of school, not because they do not want to be there, but because they are simply not afforded the chance. These children and youth are being denied not only their right to education, but are also denied opportunities such as a fair chance to get a decent job, to escape poverty, to support their families, and to contribute towards the development of their communities.

In today’s world, as poverty, conflicts, natural disasters and epidemics are becoming more frequent and complex, children are often denied their right to education. Never before in humankind’s history, has the urgency for education been more important.

To respond to this urgent need, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted unanimously a resolution to observe January 24 as the International Day of Education. This historic decision by the United Nations demonstrates the global community’s unwavering political will towards providing quality education to all and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. Moreover, it reiterates the key role of education in building sustainable and resilient societies and contributing to the achievement of the other SDGs.

On the occasion of the first International Day of Education, I would like us all to take a moment and reflect on the significance of this day. This celebration prompts us to intensify our efforts to bridge the gap by bringing more and more children and young people into the education system. To achieve this, education should be inclusive, universal in its principles and local in its impact, and effectively used to equip children and young people with the capacities and qualities necessary to address the challenges that humanity is facing.

Sustainable development pillar

Education is one of the essential pillars of sustainable development. Without substantial investment in human capital, countries cannot achieve sustainable economic development. Education enriches people’s understanding of themselves and their surrounding world. It improves the quality of their lives and leads to broad social benefits to individuals and society. Education increases people’s productivity and creativity and promotes entrepreneurship and technological advances. In addition, it plays a very crucial role in making economic and social progress and improving income distribution. Not to mention, education is central to building peace, as exclusion and inequity exacerbate disparities and conflicts. Moreover, education plays a pivotal role in spreading the values of tolerance across communities and societies Education is a right of all children and youth, regardless of their gender, race, religion or nationality. It is time to ensure that this right is upheld at all levels.Education is the passport to a prosperous future and enables children and young people to make a difference in their communities. By observing this international day, the global community has voiced a strong message recognising the instrumental role of education for peace and development. As a global philanthropic organisation, we commend the adoption of this resolution, as it demonstrates the unwavering political will to support transformative actions for inclusive, equitable and quality education for all

Dedicating a day in the calendar for education marks a new beginning for the international community to understand the urgency of this cause, and for the global education stakeholders to push their agenda forward.

Without a strong and united front for change, a collective and articulated vision, significant financial commitments and a sense of urgency to prioritise education, the world will continue to see generations of children and youth missing out on an education they so desperately need.

Governments should work hand in hand with private sector and civil-society organisations, as well as parent and teacher associations, to come up with the best and most constructive and innovative ways to improve the quality of education around the world.

Joint efforts are necessary to put in place policies and laws to maximise the positive effects of education on sustainable development and peace; and develop strategies to mobilise political support to increase funding for education.

By supporting quality education for all, we can ensure children and young people will reach their full potential, contributing to the well-being of their communities and nations, and contributing to the prosperity of our world.Education is not a privilege; it is a fundamental human right. Therefore, we should leave no one behind.

Tariq Al Gurg is chief executive officer at Dubai Cares.