President Jacob Zuma’s Remarks to the Launch of the UN Secretary-General’s Global Initiative on Education, New York, US, 26 September 2012
Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for inviting South Africa to participate in this crucial initiative on global education.
This initiative is a demonstration of the high political will and commitment by you Mr Secretary-General, to support the implementation of the internationally agreed goals and commitments with regard to education.
The developmental aspect of education was aptly articulated by the founding father of our new nation, President Nelson Mandela, when he said:
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world…education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation. ..”
Therefore, education remains the most important investment that any State, especially in Africa and the developing world can ever make.
We are therefore honoured to be part of the inaugural Group of Member State Champions for the Education First initiative and to participate in the historic launch of the initiative.
The South African Government has made education one of its five primary priorities.
This commitment to education as a driver for development has led the Government to commit the largest part of its annual budget to Basic and Higher Education.
This resonates with the Education First initiative.
We are optimistic that Africa and other developing countries will benefit from programmes and projects that will flow from this initiative.
This initiative is timely. The world faces the stark reality of a situation where approximately 72 million children world-wide still do not attend school, with almost half of these living in Africa.
Equally tragic, is that more than 700 million adults across the world do not have basic literacy skills. As a result, they are subjected to extreme poverty as well as social and economic marginalisation. They are unable to realize 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.
It is therefore important that we, as leaders and representatives of the international community, commit to this important new initiative.
Millennium Development Goal Two commits us all to achieve universal primary education by 2015. Universal access to quality education is essential for the creation of democratic and inclusive societies.
It is this reality which prompted South Africa to convene an Education Summit in July 2010, on the side-lines of our hosting of the FIFA Soccer World Cup.
The objective of the Summit was to build on the momentum achieved through the global One Goal campaign, which you also supported and championed, Secretary General.
Through this summit we reaffirmed commitments to provide quality basic education for all by 2015.
The initiative gathered millions of signatures and high-level support from global leaders.
Education for children and the youth is a collective responsibility of all Member States of the United Nations.
The Secretary General’s initiative enables us to recommit ourselves to working in partnership to ensure that the dream of education for countless millions of people across the world becomes a reality.
We therefore 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 mankind.
I thank you.