Zuma champions UN education drive

27 September 2012

South African President Jacob Zuma has accepted an invitation to become one of 10 member state “champions” of UN secretary-general Ban Ki Moon’s initiative to increase access to, and the quality of, education for children worldwide.

“Every one of us stands on the shoulders of our teachers, our communities, our families who believed in us and invested in our education,” Ban said at the launch of the Education First initiative on the margins of the 67th session of the UN General Assembly in New York on Wednesday.

Ban said he had already secured US$1.5-billion in commitments from countries, private companies and foundations for the initiative, which will focus on putting every child in school, improving the quality of learning, and fostering global citizenship through education.

‘Most important investment we can make’

Zuma, speaking at Wednesday’s launch, said the most important investment any country, particularly those in Africa and the developing world, could make was in education.

Zuma added that he was optimistic that Africa and other developing countries would benefit from the programmes and projects which flowed from the initiative.

The initiative came at a time when approximately 72-million children worldwide did not attend school, with almost half of those living in Africa, Zuma noted.

In addition, more than 700-million adults across the world did not have basic literacy skills and as a result were subjected to extreme poverty as well as social and economic marginalisation.

“They are unable to realise their hopes and aspirations for a better life. Lack of education virtually means that they have to face the challenges of life with both hands tied behind their backs.”

‘Our collective responsibility’

Leaders and representatives of the international community needed to commit to the important new initiative, Zuma said, adding that education was the collective responsibility of all member states of the UN.

The 10 inaugural member state “champions” of the initiative will help to ensure the visibility and success of the initiative.

“We owe it to future generations to make a success of this initiative, and to provide the youth with education, which is a powerful instrument for global peace and the development of humankind,” Zuma said.

In the South African context, Zuma said the government had made education one of its five key priorities, committing the largest part of its annual budget to basic and higher education.

SANews.gov.za and SAinfo reporter