Shakira Lobbies Congress on Education for Poor The Colombian pop star asks Congress to support the Education for All Act, which would increase U.S. funding to give poor children basic and primary education. Shakira urges the U.S. to take the lead in a cause she says "can actually save lives."
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Shakira Lobbies Congress on Education for Poor

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Shakira Lobbies Congress on Education for Poor

Shakira Lobbies Congress on Education for Poor

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ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

Did you know this is Education Action Week? If you did, it's very possibly because the honorary chairperson of this year's Global Campaign for Education Action Week is one of those people who are so famous they need only one name.

(Soundbite of song "Hips Don't Lie")

U: (Singing) Shakira, Shakira.

SHAKIRA: (Singing) Oh, baby, when you talk like that, you make a woman go mad. So, be wise, and keep on reading the signs of my body.

SIEGEL: "Hips Don't Lie," that's the name of the song. "Hips Don't Lie" by Shakira, a 31-year-old pop diva originally from Colombia. She was in Washington today, in our studio turning heads, and heading to Congress with hopes of changing minds.

SHAKIRA: I'm actually here meeting with members of Congress and lobbying for the Education For All legislation.

SIEGEL: Education For All.

SHAKIRA: Yes. That is actually a very important bill. If this bill passes in Congress, the U.S. will be taking a very strong leadership on the issue of universal education. And it will be transforming the lives of millions and millions of kids around the globe.

SIEGEL: What would the bill do, actually, for them?

SHAKIRA: Well, part of it would be increasing United States funding from $465 millions to $3 billion by the year 2012. And this would go towards universal education of quality - basic and primary - for all of those kids who have no access to any kind of education whatsoever. Which are many. You know, there are 72 million kids around the world without any access to any kind of education.

SIEGEL: And we should explain that for a great many children around the world and for their parents, primary school means paying fees. The idea of public education is not necessary free education, globally.

SHAKIRA: One of the things that we're trying to do is to abolish school fees. Because we know that in order to enroll boys and girls in school, we need to do at least four things. We need to hire qualified teachers, provide them with textbooks and uniforms, abolish school fees, and provide them with school meals. And this is something very important that I'm very much like to insist on. Because these things are tools that go hand in hand with an education. I mean, a kid cannot learn with an empty stomach.

SIEGEL: Mm-hmm.

SHAKIRA: And that's one important part of it. But abolishing fees - school fees is the other big part of it. I mean, in Kenya - look at what just happened in Kenya, when over 2 million kids enrolled in primary education as soon as school fees were abolished the same year. That was like a miracle, but those are the kind of miracles that education performs, because kids are hunger...

SIEGEL: Mm-hmm.

SHAKIRA: ...hungry for an education.

SIEGEL: What got you interested in this? What was the connection between being Shakira global star and a recording artist and Shakira advocate for global education?

SHAKIRA: Well, what - the country that inspired me to start working on education is my own country, Colombia.

SIEGEL: Colombia. Yeah.

SHAKIRA: I grew up in a country where, unfortunately, education is sometimes perceived as a luxury, as a privilege, and not as a human right. And this always bothered me. So, this is personal to me. You know, in the developing world, people are who born poor will die poor and that is because of the lack of opportunities, opportunities that come from education. So education can actually save lives.

SIEGEL: Tell me a little bit about your own personal education experience - a couple of years ago at UCLA.

SHAKIRA: Oh, wow, you know about that.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SIEGEL: We do our homework. At least, we pay people to do our homework for us.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SHAKIRA: Well, the reason why I wanted to go to the university is because, you know, I started very early. I started performing and started my professional life as a singer and songwriter when I was 13 years old. So imagine, I've lived my entire life on stage performing, recording, writing, producing and so, I needed an escapade. I needed to do things that I also enjoy very much like history, for example...

SIEGEL: Mm-hmm.

SHAKIRA: ...I'm a history buff.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SHAKIRA: I'm a little bit of a nerd, you know, I love reading, probably too much. And so I really wanted to take a few months off from my career and from the pop world, and from the top 40 radio, you know...

SIEGEL: Mm-hmm.

SHAKIRA: And just do something I always wanted to do, which is study history, and that's what I did in UCLA for a month - a month and a half.

SIEGEL: For a month and a half?

SHAKIRA: Yes.

SIEGEL: What did you study?

SHAKIRA: I studied history of Western civilization.

SIEGEL: Uh-huh.

SHAKIRA: Yeah.

SIEGEL: And...

SHAKIRA: And I'm still studying...

SIEGEL: yeah.

SHAKIRA: ...because I got out of that university with a big book that I haven't finished yet, so I'm, little by little, absorbing it.

SIEGEL: Well, Shakira, thank you very much...

SHAKIRA: Thank you.

SIEGEL: ...for the work that you do and for coming and talking with us.

SHAKIRA: Thank you, Robert or Rob? Should I call you Rob?

SIEGEL: No problem.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SIEGEL: You can call me whatever you want.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SHAKIRA: Thank you.

SIEGEL: It's Shakira in Washington in support of global education.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHENEVER, WHEREVER")

SHAKIRA: (Singing) You've got me head over heels. There's nothing left to fear. If you really feel the way I feel.

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