Motor racing superstar Lewis Hamilton has become a Global ambassador for Education for Save the Children, as the international children’s charity steps up its campaign to focus attention on 57 million children out of school around the world.
Hamilton who will support the charity’s efforts to highlight a third of children around the world cannot read, write or do basic arithmetic by the age of eleven, met children who have never been to school, or even opened a book, on a visit to West Bengal.
Fresh from the Indian Grand Prix, Hamilton met children whom Save the Children have helped escape a life of manual labour in brick kilns, and introduced into school. He also met young children living and working on the streets who are learning to read and write via innovative education projects.
Books not bricks
Hamilton said: “It was heart-breaking to speak to children who are desperate to learn, but are either too poor, or too far away from the nearest school to get a decent education. No child should be consigned to a life of labour – every child should have the chance to learn.”
In some of the kilns in the region, children work long hours making bricks for India’s booming construction industry. Save the Children runs 70 schooling centres in factories who, as a result of the charity’s work, operate a zero child labour policy – this has so far lifted 16,000 children out of a life building bricks and into a life of school and education.
Big yellow teaching buses
Lewis Hamilton also visited Save the Children’s mobile learning centres in Kolkata – housed in big yellow buses – which travel to urban slums. The moving classrooms are stocked with books and stationery and staffed by teaching assistants who help the children learn to read and write.
There, Hamilton met nine-year-old Radha who lives beside a busy railway line risking her life daily when she crosses the tracks to get around. Until Save the Children’s intervention, she was working in a roadside hotel and had never seen or opened a book.
Hamilton said: “It’s shocking in this day and age, to think that some children have never touched a book. It is inspiring to see how Save the Children’s work helps children, but much more needs to be done in India, and across the world. We need to make sure every child has an education to raise them out of poverty.”
Justin Forsyth, Chief Executive of Save the Children, said: “Lewis is helping us to draw attention to the global crisis in education. Funding for education has dropped – costing at least a million children an education – and we urgently need to reverse that trend. The world cannot afford to not invest in the future of our children”.
The charity is calling for greater funding for education and stronger international commitments and action to by world governments to close the learning gap.