Secretary-General's remarks at the opening of the "Journey To Schools" exhibition
New York, 4 March 2013
It is a pleasure to join in the opening of the Journeys to School exhibition.
The exhibition captures the determination of girls and boys around the world to get to school – no matter the circumstances, no matter the challenge.
This is the power of education, and I see this power everywhere.
There is simply no stronger force for human dignity … for social resilience … for sustainable development.
I remember my days as a young boy in Korea.
After the Korean War the country was totally destroyed, and there were no classrooms or textbooks.
At that time it was UNESCO and UNICEF and UNDP who were sending us textbooks and materials.
I recall we had a very moving trip there last year with (UNESCO Director General) Ms. Bokova. I told her that when I was a young boy, we used textbooks that had, on the last page, a notation that that they had been printed by UNESCO. So I concluded that we should study hard, bearing in mind those very generous contributions.
I told Ms. Bokova this story and the UNESCO Korean Commission searched bookstores and found some of these books with those notations.
My generation remembers we studied with the help of UNESCO. I did everything I could to attend school and learn, even without a classroom, even without the proper school supplies.
That spirit of power and possibility underpins the Global Education First Initiative which I launched last September.
The initiative has three objectives.
First, to make sure every girl and boy goes to school.
Second, to improve the quality of learning.
Third, to foster global citizenship through education.
Putting education first needs champions to succeed.
We have these champions in young women and men across the world – including all those featured in this exhibition.
You, too, can be a champion for education.
We have made great progress in reaching our goals for education, but we are not there yet.
It is unacceptable that 61 million children are still out of school. It is unacceptable that 200 million young people do not complete primary school.
Too many of those who are in school are failing to get the right skills.
We must put education first to build the world we want. A world without poverty, violence and hunger. A world where all girls and boys can go to school and learn what they need.
This exhibition reminds us of what we are fighting for.
Let us pledge to be as determined as each of these girls and boys.
This is the promise we make and we must keep.
Statements on 4 March 2013