September 20, 2017

Invest in education for a better world says UN chief Antonio Guterres

Having fled the war in Syria, refugee children are now attending Ketermaya Public School in Lebanon

Photo credit: Theirworld/Anthony Achkar

Urgent action can help millions of children into school and deliver the skills needed for the jobs of the future, said the UN Secretary-General at a high-level event on education financing.

Getting every child into school and learning is the best investment in the future that the world can make, the United Nations Secretary-General said today.

Antonio Guterres made an impassioned plea on behalf of millions of young people at a UN event that featured several international leaders.

“Let us commit to quality education for all of the world’s children," he said. "Financing education is the best investment we can make for a better world.”

The Financing the Future: Education 2030 event was held in New York against the backdrop of 263 million children and adolescents out of school. 

Without immediate action, over half of the world's young people will not have the basic skills they need to get a job.

This video produced by the Education Commission was shown at the event

Guterres said there are four key areas in the push to deliver education for all:

  • Launch a bold funding plan next year called the International Finance Facility for Education (IFFEd) that will unlock an extra $10 billion each year
  • Focus on girls' education. Guterres said: "They face a range of barriers - overcoming these challenges requires quality secondary education.”
  • Lifelong learning - giving children the skills today for the jobs of tomorrow
  • Refugees and displaced children - the Education Cannot Wait fund for education in emergencies is vital in tackling this

French President Emmanuel Macron said education is the answer to many of the big challenges the world is facing - including terrorism and climate change.

“Education allows us to empower people and allows each person to find their place in society," he said. “Education is one of the fundamental battles to wage in our society. It’s a moral duty to the coming generations.”

France and Senegal announced they will help to mobilise $3.1 billion of education financing by co-hosting the Global Partnership for Education's replenishment conference in Dakar in February. 

GPE works with developing countries to ensure that every child receives a quality basic education.

Antonio Guterres addresses the event at the UN General Assembly

Senegal President Macky Sall told the event: “To educate a girl means you are having a positive impact on a family. You are educating future generations and controlling population growth.

“It contributes to the emergence of an educated and productive society. Financing is one the best kinds of investment in the future.”

Two other world leaders spoke in the opening session of the event. President Arthur Peter Mutharika of Malawi said a well-educated global community stands to benefit everybody. 

“We need to agree to take education both as an investment and a humanitarian priority of our time," he added. "Education must be a priority among priorities.”

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg outlined three things that need to happen for universal education to be delivered.

  1. National governments must take on the main responsibility for access to, and quality of, education 
  2. Education must be inclusive and innovative - and include the poorest, minorities, those with disabilities and children in conflicts 
  3. Financing for education must be increased

She said: “Education is a universal right. It is crucial for ensuring equal opportunities for all. We must make sure future generations thrive and make the most out of their lives."

Muzoon Almellehan, a 19-year-old Syrian refugee and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, told the event: “My story is not unique - it is the story of 75 million children around the world who are out of school because of emergencies they didn’t create.

“For many of us, education is everything. Education makes us strong and once we have knowledge no one can take it away from us.”

The event ended on a high note, with Keith Hansen, Vice President for Human Development at the World Bank Group, giving the bank's support to the IFFEd funding proposal.

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