11 inspiring things Kofi Annan said about education and youth leadership

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A 2004 visit to the Iridimi Refugee Camp in Chad (Kofi Annan / Twitter)

Girls' education, United Nations General Assembly

Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan passed away this weekend at the age of 80. Here we explore his most inspirational quotes about education.

The world is paying tribute to the legacy of Kofi Annan who has passed away at the age of 80. Annan was the first African to be UN Secretary-General and led the United Nations for nine years from 1997 to 2006. He spent his life dedicated to peacemaking, human rights and economic development and worked for the United Nations for most of his working life. In 2001 he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001, shared with UN, for his work reforming the UN and on human rights.

Annan was born in Ghana, where he attended a Methodist-founded boarding school at the age of 13 and went to university in Kumasi before receiving a scholarship to study in the United States. He studied economics at Macalester College in Minnesota and management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He also attended the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.

A father of three, Annan became chair of The Elders and continued to dedicate the rest of his life to peace and justice through his work with this group of international statesmen and human rights advocates. A key part of his legacy was his instrumental role in the Millennium Development Goals being adopted by all countries in 2000 – which included the goal of primary education for every child by 2015.

Theirworld President Sarah Brown tweeted this tribute…

Here we look at what Kofi Annan had to say about the importance of education and youth leadership throughout his long career as a statesman. 

Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family. ADDRESSING WORLD BANK CONFERENCE IN 1997
Education is a human right with immense power to transform. On its foundation rest the cornerstones of freedom, democracy and sustainable human development. IN FOREWORD TO STATE OF THE WORLD’S CHILDREN, UNICEF REPORT IN 1999
Education is, quite simply, peace-building by another name. It is the most effective form of defense spending there is. ADDRESSING LEARNING NEVER ENDS CONFERENCE IN 1999
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Kofi Annan visits families at the Cara di Mineo camp in Sicily (UNHCR)

Study after study has taught us that there is no tool for development more effective than the education of girls... If we are to succeed in our efforts to build a more healthy, peaceful and equitable world, the classrooms of the world have to be full of girls as well as boys. Every year of schooling completed by them will be a step towards eradicating poverty and disease. IN MESSAGE TO GLOBAL EDUCATION CAMPAIGN EVENT IN 2003
Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. It is a tool for daily life in modern society. It is a bulwark against poverty, and a building block of development, an essential complement to investments in roads, dams, clinics and factories. Literacy is a platform for democratisation, and a vehicle for the promotion of cultural and national identity. Especially for girls and women, it is an agent of family health and nutrition. For everyone, everywhere, literacy is, along with education in general, a basic human right.... Literacy is, finally, the road to human progress and the means through which every man, woman and child can realise his or her full potential. MESSAGE ON INTERNATIONAL LITERACY DAY 1997
It is often said that education empowers girls by building up their confidence and enabling them to make informed decisions about their lives. For those of us who attend benefits such as these, that statement may seem to be about university degrees, income, or career fulfilment. But for most of the world's girls, it is about something much more fundamental. It is about escaping the trap of child labour, or the perils of going into the labour of childbirth while still a child yourself; about managing pregnancies so that they do not threaten your health, your livelihood or even your life; about ensuring that your children, in their turn, are guaranteed their right to education. ADDRESSING WOMEN’S HEALTH COALITION IN 2004
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Kofi Annan listens as girls share their love of sport at a 2003 UNICEF clinic (Kofi Annan / Twitter)

Once girls are in school, we must work to ensure that school prepares them for life, by developing curricula and materials, and by encouraging attitudes among teachers that emphasise the life skills these girls will need. And we must give them access to another skill they will need for life in the twenty-first century: the use of information technology, which has become an indispensable tool for learning, communicating and development. ADDRESSING WORLD EDUCATION FORUM IN 2000
There is no trust more sacred than the one the world holds with children. IN FOREWORD TO STATE OF THE WORLD’S CHILDREN, UNICEF REPORT IN 2000
Despite significant progress in recent years millions of African children have never set foot in a classroom or owned a book of their own in their lives. When people are able to access education, they can break free of the cycle of poverty and contribute to building a fairer and more peaceful society. ADDRESSING 30th ANNIVERSARY OF BOOKS FOR AFRICA IN 2018

Young people – with their dynamism, their energy and their inherent understanding of our interconnected world – have much to teach us. Increased educational attainment, advances in technology and the spread of information have made this generation the best educated, most connected and most informed in history. ON INTERNATIONAL YOUTH DAY IN 2013
I talk to a lot of young people—their attitude, determination to make a difference, innovative spirit and desire to change things give me hope. ADDRESSING WE DAY VANCOUVER IN 2014

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