From the soccer pitch to the schoolroom

04 July 2010 - 02:00 By Desmond Tutu

Another View: It is with a heavy heart that Desmond Tutu has become involved in 1GOAL to encourage education for all

Behind the glamour of the World Cup, this carnival of football, lie 72 million individual scandals.

That is the number of children around the world unable to get even a basic education.

We can no longer step lightly around this shame.

It is our moral obligation to give every child the very best education possible.

We must be willing to do more than talk. We must put universal education on the fast track to break the cycle of illiteracy and poverty running rampant in certain regions around the world.

Without free and compulsory schooling, the lives of these children are a nightmare of forced labour in factories, sweatshops and fields.

For this reason I have become a co-chair of 1GOAL: Education for All.

It is a role I take on with a heavy heart.

Ten years into the 21st century, when we can put satellites in space and communicate with friends and family around the world in seconds, the fact that we have 72 million children out of school shames the world.

There are heart-wrenching cases all over the developing world and stories like Mahder's, a 12-year-old from Ethiopia, are all too common.

Like any child she plays sports and loves reality TV.

When her father died, her family could no longer afford to pay her school fees.

It is stories like Mahder's that have led to 1GOAL calling for the abolition of school fees in all developing countries, so that a level of educational inclusion that has yet to be attained, can be delivered.

And often the very basics of school life are also lacking: pencils, books and uniforms - the small things that make a big difference.

Developing countries must commit more of their budgets to these basics for children to make the most of their lives.

The solutions put forward by 1GOAL are so simple that it is immensely frustrating that they need to be enumerated at all.

The essence is this: rich governments must play their part by supporting poorer countries in getting all children into school.

For their part, developing countries must bear the responsibility of making sure that money is spent properly by ensuring that 20% of their budgets are given over to education.

Further, developing countries must make education a constitutional right.

Yes, times are tight, financially.

But bear in mind that the $16-billion needed to deliver the dream of universal education amounts to just 0.2% of the money used to bail out the global banking system.

The economic case is absolutely clear: developing countries could be losing out to the tune of $70-billion a year by not having well-educated populations.

People talk about African self-sufficiency, about hand-ups and not hand-outs. Well, here's $70-billion every year for a relatively small international investment.

Excitingly, the world of football has lined up behind the campaign.

I am proud to say that Aaron Mokoena, South Africa's captain, has become a vociferous campaigner for this cause, alongside other members of the Bafana Bafana World Cup squad - and former greats such as Lucas Radebe and Quinton Fortune.

Another 160 football players and legends have also backed the campaign including Brazil's Pele, France's Zinedine Zidane, Portugal's Eusebio and Bobby Charlton of England.

Football is an unrivalled force for bringing together supporters from all backgrounds - and the World Cup is the number one event for doing so.

This winter the world of football - players, supporters and the world's sporting media - have descended on my home country for the biggest sporting carnival on earth.

But, for the first time ever, this tournament has a genuine legacy built into it.

A world education summit will take place in the midst of this competition, with leaders from all over the world attending and making pledges - so that Africa's first World Cup leaves a legacy of education for all.

So while we enjoy the games and support our players in the good company of friends and family, let's also spare a thought for the 72 million children who are unable, through no fault of their own, to go to school. This tournament could change their lives forever.

  • Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is the Co-Chair of 1GOAL. For more information go to