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The Human Right That Keeps on Giving

Easy and safe access to quality education is not just a fundamental human right, but also an enabling right – essential for the exercise of all others. With such a powerful tool available to us, we should be doing whatever we can to use it, and this month's United Nations General Assembly summit is a good place to start.

NEW DELHI – In Côte d’Ivoire, I once met a boy working on a cocoa farm whose only dream was someday to taste the rich brown chocolate he helped produce. And in Pakistan, I once rescued a boy who sewed footballs and wished only to play with the product of his work.

In the course of more than three decades of defending children’s rights – including rescuing tens of thousands of children from bonded labor and slavery, among them little girls who were trafficked from their homeland for sexual exploitation – I have met young people from many backgrounds. But, whether they are child laborers or victims of war who have lost everything, all have something in common: an indomitable urge to study. They want nothing more than to pick up a book, go to school, and improve their lives through education.

According to UNESCO, every additional year of schooling a young person receives increases their average future earnings by 10%, and can boost countries’ average annual GDP growth by 0.37%. Education doesn’t only break the shackles of human slavery; it can also fuel social, economic, and political change.

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