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Education a Birthright, Essential Investment in Our Future, Says Secretary-General at Global Forum

Education A Birthright, Essential Investment in Our Future,

Says Secretary-General at Global Forum

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the Global Education First Initiative Anniversary Event, entitled "Delivering on the Global Education Promise", in New York on 25 September:

I am honoured to join so many dignitaries, activists and education leaders here today.

I thank all the partners who have helped us to deliver on our promises:  the Heads of States and Governments of Champion Countries, teachers, students, the United Nations family, my Special Envoy for Global Education, parents, civil society, the private sector and most importantly, all of you here today.  Thank you for your commitment.

Global Education First is based on the conviction that it is possible to get every child into school.  That we can give everyone the opportunity to learn.  That education must do more than produce individuals who can just read, write and count.  Education must produce global citizens who can rise to the complex challenges of the twenty-first century.

Today we mark the first anniversary of an initiative that has mobilized the world.  In just one year, we have rallied 11 Heads of State and Government as Champions for the Initiative.  Members of our dynamic Youth Advocacy Group are mobilizing support and speaking out on education around the world.

In April, we convened an unprecedented meeting at the World Bank of finance and education ministers from countries with some of the highest out-of-school rates.  I thank Dr. Jim Yong Kim of the World Bank for his vision and leadership.  Together with development partners, they are now tackling their challenges.

In July, we had a Youth Takeover at the United Nations.  We called it Malala Day.  The whole area was occupied by youth.  Malala, you are a powerful reminder of why our initiative matters.  Your courage and triumph have inspired millions of people across the world.  Malala herself said the Day was not for her — but for every woman, every boy and every girl who stands up for their rights.  Now we must answer their calls.

Education is an essential investment to build the future we want.  Educated mothers are much more likely to survive childbirth.  If we put all girls in primary school, we could save an estimated 189,000 women each year.  Their children also benefit.  If all women had schooling as girls, experts say we could save 900,000 of their children each year.  And if those girls got a secondary education, we could save 3 million lives.

For many children, a teacher is their shield against abuse — and their inspiration to claim the life of dignity they deserve.

We celebrate today — but we also face the tough facts.  Some 57 million children are not in school.  Millions of others are in school, but they are not learning.  We face a serious challenge in Syria, where fighting has affected the education of 2 million children, including many young refugees in Lebanon.  We must take bold action to address this crisis.

Globally, leaders must place education at the top of our common agenda.  This is especially important as we work to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and shape a vision for the post-2015 period.  We also need funding — but aid for education has dropped for the first time in a decade.  I am also concerned that resources are not reaching the people who need them most.

I welcome your focus on establishing a strategy to address financing.  The cost of reaching our goals is far less than the price of failing the world’s out-of-school children.  To succeed, we have to focus on the communities and countries that lag furthest behind.

Education is everyone’s birthright.  I, myself, was born poor, after Korea was devastated by the Korean War.  I owe everything I have now to education — a good education — and investment by the Government.  I owe it to the world, to the United Nations, to do everything possible to give all people the same start.  At that time, the United Nations was a beacon for many Korean children.  Now the United Nations is also a beacon for millions and millions of children around the world.  We have to help them.  A family’s poverty should never deprive any child of a good education.  No child should be left out of school because of gender, ethnicity or geography.

Let us advance together until education is no longer a privilege for some — but a right for all.  When we put education first, a life of dignity will follow.  Thank you for your commitment.

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For information media. Not an official record.