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UN Secretary General Launches Education First Initiative

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Ban Ki Moon Launces Education FirstUnited Nations, Wednesday launched a new education initiative called “Education First”, at a high-level event at the UN headquarters in New York. Education First is a Global Initiative led by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, BAN Ki-moon. It gathers a broad spectrum of world leaders and advocates who all aspire to use the transformative power of education to build a better future for all.

The Initiative aims to raise the political profile of education, strengthen the global movement to achieve quality education and generate additional and sufficient funding through sustained advocacy efforts.  Achieving gains in education will have an impact on all the Millennium Development Goals, from lower child and maternal mortality, to better health, higher income and more environmentally-friendly societies.

Australia, Bangladesh, South Africa, Timor-Leste and Denmark were among countries that pledged to intensify their support to Education First, the new global partnership. In addition, dozens of top companies and private foundations have mobilized over $1.5 billion in new financing to ensure all children and young people have a quality, relevant and transformative education.

Western Union Foundation and the MasterCard Foundation were among the first to solidify their support for the initiative. Western Union has pledged to directly move over $1 billion for education globally, providing $10,000 per day in grants for 1 million days of school. Under MasterCard’s ‘Scholars Program’, the $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.

“Education First” was launched on the margins of the 67 th Session of the UN General Assembly. Participants included Heads of State and Ministers from countries, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown, heads of UN agencies, young people, civil society representatives and Chief Executive Officers of major corporations. In the next five years, “Education First” will focus on three priorities: putting every child in school, improving the quality of learning and fostering global citizenship.

The launch was followed by a discussion of the goals of initiative and the critical need to put education on top of the global agenda. UN deputy secretary-general Jan Eliasson chaired the panel discussion and panelists were Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan, Daw Aung Sang Suu Kyi of Myanmar, teacher representative Teopista Birungi Mayanja of Uganda and youth representative Charles Young of Jamaica.

At the end of the 1990s, 108 million children of primary school age were not enrolled in schools. That number has fallen to 61 million today, according to UNESCO’s forthcoming Global Monitoring Report. The gap between boy and girl enrollment has also been greatly reduced. These are significant achievements, largely due to national and international resolve to act on shared goals for education.

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