Maisie Le Masurier and Rebecca Unwin, both 14 from Guildford County School in Surrey, are to be the 2014 Young Ambassadors for the Send My Friend to School campaign.
The two schoolgirls have just won The Steve Sinnott Award, presented to two passionate young people each year who are committed to furthering the cause of Education for All.
As the 2014 Young Ambassadors for the campaign, Rebecca and Maisie’s role will be to inspire young people all around the UK to champion the right for ALL children worldwide to get a quality education regardless of their disability. First they will travel to Uganda on a fact-finding mission with development charity Sightsavers and the Global Campaign for Education UK (GCE UK) to visit projects and investigate the barriers to education, particularly for children who are blind or visually impaired.
On their return Maisie and Rebecca will speak about the issues they have witnessed firsthand to teachers at events such as the NUT conference, to parliamentarians in the House of Commons, will lead a delegation of young people to meet the Minister for International Development.
As Young Ambassadors they will inspire their peers to join the campaign via the Send My Friend to School website, through mainstream and social media and through regional school events.
Maisie said: “We applied to be the Young Ambassadors because no child should be forgotten or deprived of a fundamental human right. We were particularly interested in this year’s theme because education is vital in giving disabled children the chance to overcome their disabilities and showcase their abilities.”
Rebecca: “When we found out we had won, not only was I ecstatic but I feel that this is my opportunity to put my own personal experiences to good use. Due to a brain tumour four years ago I am now partially sighted and I have to deal with the consequences. I can’t imagine how my life would be if I were denied an education as a result of my poor eyesight. I feel I can really do something for these children as I believe it is an injustice for any person to be denied an education because of their disability or otherwise.
There are still 57 million children worldwide who are missing out on school and over one third of those have a disability. To address the need to prioritise education for children with disabilities and ensure that the target of universal primary education is reached the campaign this year is being called Send ALL My Friends to School.
Nicola Cadbury, Send My Friend to School Campaigner said: “The standard of schools’ applications for the Young Ambassadors competition was extremely high this year and we were delighted to see entries coming from right across the UK. The Judges were incredibly impressed with our winners, Maisie and Rebecca, who showed a real maturity and empathy, as well as being very strong communicators. They have a clear understanding of the campaigning process as well as a deep and sincere passion for education for all.”
Whilst in Uganda, Maisie and Rebecca will meet with campaigners, charity workers and policy makers. They will also have the chance to meet children in Uganda who because of their disability are denied the chance to go to school and will see firsthand how this traps them in poverty.
And they will also visit the Uganda Inclusive Education Programme to meet children with disabilities who are in school and hear from them and their teachers about their experiences of education and the difference it makes to their lives.
This programme, which aims to increase enrolment of visually impaired in Uganda by 25 per cent by 2016, is supported by Sightsavers which provides equipment, assistive devices, braille machines as well as specialized training for teachers.
Juliet Milgate, Head of Policy at Sightsavers said: “We hope that the visit to Uganda will inspire them to raise awareness of the many challenges facing children and young people with disabilities wanting an education and add their voices to those of the young people all around the world in the campaign for education for all”.