"The realization of the right to education is everyone's business. I am proud to see that here, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, this is not just a slogan, but a deep conviction as the mutual commitment of the authorities and civil society is strong. Continue to be the champions of education and together take the challenge of education for all!" said the Director-General at the launch of the petition "Stand up for School!" in Kinshasa on 16 December 2014.
She was speaking alongside Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education, and in the presence of Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo and the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education and Introduction to the New Citizenship, Maker Mwangu Famba.
The purpose of this petition is to collect at least 1 million signatures in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This global campaign, led by "A World at School," mobilizes youth, teachers, civil society, the private sector and religious leaders around the advocacy for universal education, which will result in a large petition that will be taken to the UN General Assembly in September 2015.
The challenge of "A World at School" is to make this the largest ever petition for the right to education, with a record number of signatures.
During the launch, several young people spoke about the obstacles to the right to education in the DRC, including early marriage of girls, abuse and sexual violence, child labor and recruitment into armed militias, as well that the difficult situation of teachers in rural areas or in conflict zones.
"Education is a right for all, not a privilege," said Karentsa, a young student.
"More than 3 million children do not have access to education in the DRC. This represents 3 million good reasons to sign this petition on behalf of all those who are exploited, abused and manipulated, and change their future,” said Gordon Brown, inviting all those present to sign the petition.
The launch was closed with a solemn signing of the petition by Irina Bokova, Gordon Brown and the ministers present.
Quoting Nelson Mandela, the Prime Minister concluded that "education is the best weapon to change the world."
Earlier in the day, visiting the primary school Kasavubu Kinshasa accompanied by the Minister of Education, the Director-General had the opportunity to meet with teachers, students and municipal authorities and voice their concerns and aspirations - language learning, teacher training, science education for girls, and violence in schools were among the issues discussed.