Two year 10 pupils from Wales have won this year’s Steve Sinnott award to be young ambassadors for the Send My Friend to School campaign, after wowing the judges with their dynamism, charisma and commitment.
George Watts and Emily Pemberton, from Ysgol Gyfun Plasmawr in Cardiff, will travel to Bangladesh next month with the Global Campaign for Education UK, to learn first hand about barriers to education in a crucial year for the campaign. The Millennium Development Goal of providing all children with primary education should have been met by 2015, but 57 million children are still missing out around the world.
The pair faced stiff competition nationwide, but won over the judging panel with a captivating presentation that demonstrated both a sophisticated grasp of the issues and a natural ability to connect with an audience.
The award was set up in memory of former NUT general secretary Steve Sinnott in 2008, and his widow, Mary, is one the judges. “They just had so much energy and enthusiasm, and they were really committed to the cause,” she said. “They had a real understanding of the necessity of having a fair and just world where everyone has access to quality education.”
For the past two years George and Emily have been working at their school on the Send My Friend to School campaign – which calls on world leaders to keep to their millennium promises on primary education and gender equality. The two pupils, who were described as “true global citizens” by their teacher, have created learning resources on education for all, helped younger pupils with campaigning, and held debates. They also invited their local MP, Kevin Brennan, to the school to collect a letter to David Cameron demanding he keeps his promise on universal education, and calling for more and better qualified teachers in the developing world.
George says: “I am deeply honoured to be able to take part and make a difference in such an essential and pivotal campaign.” And Emily can’t wait to get started. “To be given the opportunity to try and actively tackle oppression makes me feel I’m truly practising what I preach,” she says. “I am so excited.”
The pair will travel to Bangladesh with the charity ActionAid, and will visit the capital, Dhaka, as well as spending time in the remote rural area of Nilphamari, meeting children in and out of school, campaigners and politicians. Education Guardian will accompany them.
Back in the UK, they will use their experiences to encourage more pupils to sign up to Send My Friend to School, and share their findings with teachers, media and MPs.
The young ambassadors will also be among 15 exceptional 15-year-olds from the UK who will launch a new campaign, Action2015, on 15 January. Action2015 will put pressure on world leaders to agree an ambitious set of new sustainable development goals when they meet later this year.
A free schools pack is available from sendmyfriend.org