26.09.2012 - ODG

Irina Bokova joins UN Secretary-General to launch his new global “Education First” initiative

© UNESCO -UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova at the launch of Education First, New York, September 2012

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova welcomed today’s launch of a major new campaign to put every child in school by 2015 as an “historic call to action”, and pledged the Organisation's full support to make it succeed.

“Education First” seeks to mobilize all partners – traditional and new - to put education on top of the development agenda. The initiative will target three priorities: promoting better equity in access, improving the quality of learning and promoting global citizenship.

The campaign was launched in New York today by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki moon, and has already won commitments of over $1.5 billion to get the ball rolling.

"Education is hope and dignity," declared Mr. Ban Ki-moon, "education is growth and development, education is the basic building block for healthy societies."

The Secretary-General thanked UNESCO for its outstanding leadership and support in leading this initiative, which is vital for girls and boys across the world.

Mr Ban Ki-moon has placed education at the top of his agenda in his second term as UN Secretary General, and at the heart of the new global sustainability agenda currently being defined.

The Director-General, who will serve as Executive Secretary of the Steering Committee for the campaign, spoke at the launch and called for scaling up  education and literacy for women to ensure that mothers put their children into school, for training more and better qualified teachers  and for transforming education to develop global citizenship.

Addressing heads-of-state, chiefs from other UN agencies and industry and civil society leaders at UN headquarters today, Irina Bokova said that the world’s education systems “are letting us down” and called for a “transformation in how we educate and what we educate for.”

"Our vision is clear," declared Irina Bokova, "now we need a roadmap, and this is the first task of the Steering Committee, because expectations are high and we must meet the promise we are making today to every girl and boy."

Chaired by the Secretary-General, speakers included Mr Chenor Bah, youth-student representative, Mr. Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa, Ms. Helle Thorning-Schnidt, Prime Minister of Denmark, Her Highness Sheikha Mozah, Dr Thomas Yayi Boni, President of Benin and Chairperson of the African Union, Ms. Julia Gillard, Prime Minister of Australia, Mr Zoran Milanovic, Prime Minister of Croatia, Mr Aloizio Mercandante, Minister of Education of Brazil, as well as Mr Jim Kim, President of the World Bank, Mr Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF, and Mr Gordon Brown,  Special Envoy for Global Education.

Regular monitoring by UNESCO shows that although significant advances have been made in education in recent decades, progress is slowing. Without a major effort, there is a real danger that there will be more children out-of-school in 2015 than there are today.

The forthcoming UNESCO Education For All Global Monitoring Report estimates that some 61 million primary school - age children still have no access to school, while 250 million children who should have reached fourth grade cannot read or write whether they are in school or not.  Some 775 million adults remain illiterate, two thirds of them girls and women.  Young people everywhere are swelling the ranks of the unemployed, deepening inequalities and fuelling social tensions.

The Director-General  welcomed the new commitments made at the launch by several countries, including Australia, Bangladesh, South Africa, Timor-Leste and Denmark, along with those made by dozens of top companies and private foundations that have mobilized over US$1.5 billion in new financing. Western Union Foundation and the MasterCard Foundation were among the first to announce their support for the initiative.  The Western Union Foundation has pledged to directly move over US$1 billion for education globally, providing US$10,000 per day in grants for 1 million days of school. Under MasterCard Foundation’s ‘Scholars Program’, the US$500 million education initiative will allow 15,000 talented, yet economically disadvantaged students, particularly from the African region, to access and complete their secondary and university education.

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