With Malala Yousafzai's set to visit United Nations Headquarters on Friday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today highlighted the importance of ensuring global access to quality education, and stressed that no girl or boy should face unsafe circumstances when exercising this basic right.
“On 12 July, Malala will be joined by hundreds of students from more than 80 countries in a unique Youth Assembly, where diplomats will take a back seat as young people take over the UN,” Mr. Ban said in an op-ed for the Huffington Post. “They will gather to issue a global call for quality education for all.”
Malala is the Pakistani schoolgirl and education rights campaigner who, along with friends, was shot by the Taliban for attending classes. During her UN visit, which coincides with her 16th birthday, Malala will share her experiences and raise awareness about the importance of education, particularly for girls around the world.
“In far too many places, students like Malala and their teachers are threatened, assaulted, even killed,” Mr. Ban said. “Through hate-filled actions, extremists have shown what frightens them the most: a girl with a book.”
“We must do all we can to ensure that schools are safe and secure learning spaces. Nowhere in the world should it be an act of bravery for an adult to teach or a girl to go to school.”
Mr. Ban noted that there is still a long way to go to achieve universal education as there are currently some 57 million children our of primary school, many of whom live in countries mired by conflict. In addition, more than 120 million young people between the ages of 15 and 24 lack basic reading and writing skills, putting them at odds with the evolving job market. The majority of them are women.
“In today's knowledge-based society, education is a foundation for the future we want: a world without poverty, violence, discrimination or disease. Building this future will require a new, concerted push,” Mr. Ban said.
He also drew attention to the UN Global Education First Initiative, which seeks to put every child in school, improve the quality of learning, and foster global citizenship by the end of 2015.
“Education is the pathway to saving lives, building peace and empowering young people,” Mr. Ban said. “That is the lesson that Malala and millions like her are seeking to teach the world. International partners and Governments must listen and act.”
Last month, Ms. Yousafzai was the first person to sign a new worldwide petition calling for urgent action to ensure the right of every child to safely attend school. The petition was launched with the backing of the United Nations Special Envoy for Education, Gordon Brown.