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At One Young World summit, education is 'key for everything'

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By Jason Cato and Adam Smeltz
Friday, Oct. 19, 2012, 11:58 p.m.

At 22, Cornelia Kruah has watched two civil wars ravage her home country of Liberia.

The African republic paid in lives but also in intellectual capital, its school system fractured in upheaval that left many young Liberians poorly educated and ill-equipped to rebuild an economy.

“Education is the key for everything,” said Kruah, one of 1,300 delegates from about 180 countries at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown, for the third annual One Young World global issues summit. “I think it really needs to be strengthened. It's a gateway.”

Her delegate colleagues agreed Friday, picking literacy — including computer literacy — as a primary theme as the gathering assembled singer Joss Stone, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and several other international luminaries on its second day in Pittsburgh. The summit of young leaders mostly in their 20s will meet through Sunday.

“Thoughts on their own are useless. We have to act,” said Stone, 25, a contemporary of the delegates. “Having an idea is just the beginning.”

Eighty-eight percent of delegates accepted a written pledge “to take personal responsibility for improving literacy in our home communities,” promising to take up the cause in practical ways. About a quarter of adults worldwide are illiterate, according to United Nations estimates.

“This doesn't come from the developing world alone. It comes from the whole world,” said Kate Robertson, a co-founder of One Young World — a London-based charity that runs the summit to give young people a global platform for social change.

Literacy appeared among a half-dozen major causes that gripped center stage and delegate discussions Friday. Robertson said participants in last year's summit in Zurich, Switzerland, made education a top priority.

“Many problems you see around the world are simple problems and can be solved in simple ways,” said Bangladeshi professor Muhammad Yunus, a winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. “In this day and age, there is no reason absolutely whatsoever that someone should be illiterate.”

Elderly people who are illiterate can use cell phones, and young people not yet in school know how to play computer games, he said. Yunus challenged delegates to develop software that would allow those technologies to become teaching devices.

“Always look at a tiny slice of the problem. Don't try to solve the whole problem,” Yunus said. “If you solve the tiny slice, then it is done.”

Delegates put another spotlight on corruption. More than 95 percent of participants from Brazil, India, Russia and Mexico consider corruption a major problem in their countries, saying transparency is most needed to fight it.

Catherine Kipsang, 22, of Kenya said she aims to become president of her country by age 45. Four months ago, she helped start to educate Kenyans about the backgrounds and voting records of politicians.

Distributing such information in her country is difficult, Kipsang said.

“I can only imagine the kind of impact we could have if we all have something like GiveNumbers in all the countries here,” Kipsang said.

Twitter and Square founder Jack Dorsey, who addressed delegates Friday, said his companies make transparency a priority in governance and routine operations.

“It definitely has to start with every action you do,” Dorsey said. “And it's the simplest things that make the biggest difference.”

Jason Cato and Adam Smeltz are staff writers for Trib Total Media. They can be reached at and



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