Director-General Joins UN Chief and Special Envoy for Global Education in Timor-Leste
The Parliament of Timor-Leste, Asia’s youngest nation, broke into applause when UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asserted that he had chosen the country to show the value of education for sustainable development and peace.
UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova and UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown joined Mr Ban in the capital city of Dili on 15 August to express their full support to advancing the educational development of the country, which recently celebrated the tenth anniversary of the restoration of its independence.
“One of the best ways to empower a young, dynamic democracy is by empowering its young dynamic citizens. Education is a building block of every society. Education powers decent jobs, opportunities and hope for a nation,” said Mr Ban.”
“This is why I am travelling with UNESCO Director-General and Special Envoy Gordon Brown. With my political leadership and theirs, we can mobilize necessary political awareness and resources. We have taken Timor-Leste as the first country to raise education as a number one priority.”
Education and rural development are priorities of the new government, sworn in following parliamentary elections in July, and presidential elections earlier in the year. The Speaker of the Parliament asserted that “our future development is completely dependent on education,” indicating that one of the country’s greatest challenges was to educate its youth.
“We would like to help you succeed,” said Mr Ban. “Your success will be the success of the United Nations. We want to use your country as an example of what wise investment and good policies on a priority like education can give in terms of good results for your people.”
Ms Bokova and Mr Brown joined the Secretary-General in a meeting with the President of Timor-Leste, Taur Matan Ruak. The President said that an adult literacy campaign launched in 2007 resulted in the eradication of illiteracy in five out of 13 districts. The government’s priorities include also improving school conditions, teacher training, the quality of didactic materials, and better integration of young people through technical and vocational education and training.
The Director-General commended the government for increasing investment in education. Speaking also on behalf of the Steering Committee of the Secretary-General’s new education initiative to be launched in September 2012, she affirmed that “we are mobilized to assist you in developing the right policies, the right indicators and the right human capacities to increase literacy rates, improve technical vocational education training and skills, teacher training and the overall quality of education. The development of human capital is the most important challenge you have, and we pledge to support you in the process of transition.”
Special envoy Gordon Brown asserted that “we want to help you to ensure that every single child is in primary and secondary education and that standards of achievements are improved. We are going to look at what the international community can do so that in 2015 every child is in school.”
The President noted that that the” international community has to keep working together to have education reach all households in every corner of our country.”
In a separate meeting with Ms Bokova and Mr Brown, Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao highlighted that a majority of Timor-Leste's population of just over one million were youth. He said the government’s five-year plan would place emphasis on education and that efforts are being made to fight exclusion of different ethnic minorities, including through multilingual education.