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Firm on going to school, Orissa girl reaches G8

By Jaideep Sarin, IANS,

L’Aquila (Italy) : Convincing her father to let her go to school has paid dividends for a teenaged Indian girl from a tribal area of Orissa. She has now rubbed shoulders with some of the most powerful people on this earth – such as US President Barack Obama – in this quake-hit Italian town.

Sanjukta Pangi, who is a Class 12 student at a government school in Karanjaguda village of Orissa’s Koraput district, knows the struggle she has gone through to reach this far.

She is one of the 14 participating youngsters from different countries who are in Italy for the J8 (Junior 8) summit – an offshoot of the powerful G8, the group of world’s most wealthy and industrialized countries.

“I had to struggle to go to school. If I hadn’t convinced my father to let me continue going to school, I would not be at the J8,” Pangi, 16, said.

The 14 youngsters were selected to meet the top world leaders from G8 and G5 from among 54 youngsters aged between 14 and 17 years. They have come to attend the J8 summit in Rome, about 100 km from here.

At the meeting, the J8 representatives presented recommendations for the 14 leaders (G8, G5 and Egypt) attending the summit here. The youngsters called on their respective leaders to get tough with countries who don’t meet climate change targets and teachers whose standards slip.

“If I could ask the world’s leaders to prioritize one thing to help children, it would be education,” said Sanjukta.

The young people were chosen by their peers to represent the Unicef J8. One young person represented each of the G8 countries and non-G8 countries – Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Mexico and South Africa – invited to L’Aquila.

The young people told the leaders they wanted high quality post-primary education for all children and a safe trip to school.

The world leaders, who listened to the J8 representatives keenly Thursday, were told to invest more in renewable energy and collectively sign a meaningful Copenhagen agreement that emphasizes participation of young people in climate change action.

The young people expressed great concern about the impact of the financial crisis on their lives.

“We did not create this crisis, but it will affect us the most and we resent it. We hope the leaders will listen to what we said and act now,” said Emmanuella Louidsor, 17, of United States.

The youngest of the lot, Camilla Grassi, 14, came from host country Italy.