A coalition of governments, charities and U.N. agencies pledged $4.5 billion on Thursday in an effort to get all the world's children in school by 2015.
A meeting — which included British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Australian Prime Minister Mark Rudd, Jordan's Queen Rania, World Bank chief Robert Zoellick and former child laborers — was meant to boost the effort to eradicate illiteracy and provide universal primary schooling by 2015.
That was the target year established by a U.N. summit in 2000, but as Brown noted, the pace at this point would not reach the goal even by the end of this century.
Among those joining in to try and change that were rock star humanitarians Bono and Bob Geldof, who pledged to do their part by opening two new teacher training colleges in Malawi and Rwanda. The soccer federation FIFA chipped in, too.
Girls pulled out of school most often
The donations were announced at Thursday's "Class of 2015: Education For All" pledging summit, which has a goal of getting 75 million more children into school — and ending discrimination against girls, who are frequently the last to be sent to school and the first to be pulled out in much of the world.
The meeting opened with appeals by two girls who escaped from child labor with the help of humanitarian groups. Devli Kumari, 11, was born in an Indian stone quarry where her whole family worked as bonded wage slaves. Ablaavi Agbodjan from Togo told the crowd in French that she now hopes to go to college and become a doctor.
"Why aren't more girls in school?" asked Queen Rania. "Because they are fetching water from wells that are miles away."
One out of four women cannot read or write, said Kailash Satyarthi, president of the Global Campaign for Education.
He praised the generosity of a few nations — naming Britain, Netherlands and Norway — but urged more support from G-8 nations, specifically encouraging the United States, Japan, Germany and Italy do more.
Goal of universal primary education
Applause broke out when it was announced that an e-mail had just been received from Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, who hailed their goals and promised, if elected, to sign a $2 billion U.S. "Global Education Fund" first proposed by Sen. Hillary Clinton.
The goal of universal primary education was first promised as a fundamental right in 1948 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, one of the U.N.'s core documents.
Since 2000, the campaign has brought 40 million more children into schools, Brown said. Zoellick cited Cambodia, which raised its rate of enrollment in primary schools from 50 percent to over 80 percent in just five years, as a success story.
The pledging conference was one of many international meetings taking place on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.