|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Productive Societies Built ‘One Lesson at a Time’, Secretary-General Says
during Visit to Timor-Leste Basic Education Centre
Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the Cassait Basic Education Centre in Liquica District, Timor-Leste, on 16 August:
What a wonderful performance by those inspiring school students. Thank you for your performance and warm welcome. Let’s applaud them. Obrigado.
Coming to this school reminds me [of the] old days, 60-65 years ago, when I was a young student like them. I was raised before, during and after the Korean War. As you may know, the Korean War broke out in 1950 and lasted three years, until 1953.
When I was just 6 years old, the Korean War broke out and there was no school. Then during the late part of the Korean War and after the Korean War, I had to study. All the classrooms were destroyed by the war, and there was no place for us to study. We used to sit on the dirty ground. Because of the sun — there were no tents like this — we had to study under the trees. It was only [a] few years later [that] they were able to build classrooms. We had to move from this house, to that building; whatever we had left, it was used as classrooms. So, all the classrooms were scattered here and there around the cities.
Every morning we listened to our principal. We gathered in our playground. That reminds me of old days. I see all these good classrooms here and you are much better [off] than I was 50, 60 years ago. But I am very much moved by seeing all these schoolchildren with a sense of great hope for their future. And I thank all partners, United Nation agencies and all partners and Member States of United Nations who have been providing such great [support].
We often say that when you plant a tree [from] a seed, this seed needs water and sun and soil, and great care by people. A child will grow into a strong adult with the right books, good investment in education and teachers, and values. And this is what we are doing today. That is how we build productive societies — one lesson at a time.
When I see Timor-Leste investing in education — and I highly commended President Ruak yesterday, his presidential election campaign [focused on] education and rural development — I think they are all proper pledges. The President and Prime Minister were fully committed [to] investing wisely in education. I am sure that the seeds of a better future, which you will plant today, will blossom soon. I thank all the generous donors who support this wonderful school.
In about an hour, I will go to the University of Timor-Leste. I hope that in about a decade, these students here will be going there, too. It is important to have big dreams. I’m telling you young students, have a big dream. Put your head above the clouds, but put your feet firmly on the ground. That means you have big ideas and dreams, but at the same time, [be] practical. If you have only high ideas and dream, you will fall when you are not practical. You have to see what kind of [position] you are standing [in].
Every time a child studies even one page of problems, they build a better life. Many of you are education experts here. You know that the value of this school resonates far beyond this school. Education promotes equality. Learning lifts people out of poverty. Life skills can even prevent disease and save lives. And whole economies can prosper.
I appreciate your dedication to quality education. We need to have a quality education, a relevant education and inclusive education. Boys and girls, they have to be given equal opportunities. This education should be an inclusive one. I want to amplify your efforts by mobilizing all partners in a new Global Initiative on Education called Education First. The aim is to enrol all children, improve quality and foster global citizens. Education is not just teaching how to read, how to write. Education is to teach how to become a good citizen, how to become a global citizen. This is a good education.
Cassait school proves that education is not for just a few, privileged people; education is a fundamental right, education is a fundamental human right, it is a human dignity.
The Principal, Mr. Soares Ribeiro, is contributing to peace and stability by helping to educate responsible, educated and participative citizens. He once said that part of learning “is to encourage the children to be active players”. This is the philosophy I want to share with the world.
I count on all of you. United Nations will always work with you. I believe that education is a building block of any society. This is something [that] can work as a foundation over all the issues we are dealing with. Without education, without educated human resources, you cannot build this society, this country. That is why I am travelling with global leader Gordon Brown, who was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, who is very dedicated (and) committed to political and public awareness. [He] will also liaise with and mobilize communities, with the biggest coalition who will work [in an] advocacy role all throughout the world.
And I am also grateful that the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is here. She is the most responsible person in the United Nations system where education is concerned. Therefore, you have everybody. Secretary-General is here representing United Nations, you have a global leader, and we have the highest responsible person on education.
I am going to launch Education First, [it will be] a global launch on 26 September at the United Nations. This is the first time in 66 years [that] the United Nations is leading a global education [initiative]. As part of this campaign, we have chosen Timor-Leste as the first country. From here we start.
It may start with United Nations, but it [also] starts with you. And it starts only with your strong support. And I count on your strong commitment.
Let us build the world for a better future for all the people.
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* Reissued to reflect remarks as delivered.