Education plays an important role in building peaceful societies worldwide, and the United Nations (UN) is urging all countries to increase investment in quality education. As the UN marked the 32nd International Day of Peace on Sept. 21, UN senior officials called for an increased financial commitment to reverse trends which show aid for schools and teachers dipping for the first time in a decade, according to a statement.
“On this International Day of Peace, let us pledge to teach our children the value of tolerance and mutual respect,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message for the Day. “Let us invest in the schools and teachers that will build a fair and inclusive world that embraces diversity. Let us fight for peace and defend it with all our might,” Mr. Ban noted highlighting this year’s theme, ‘Education for Peace.’
He recalled the words on Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl targeted by the Taliban for campaigning for the right to education, during her visit to the UN Headquarters in New York in June, “One teacher, one book, one pen, can change the world.”
According to Ban, bold political leadership and increased financial commitment are required to reverse a decline in aid for education. He urged new partnerships to reach the poorest and most marginalized children.
Last year, Ban launched the Global Education First Initiative to accelerate progress towards universal education. Currently there are 57 million children that do not have access to education, and millions more that need better schooling that go beyond the basics of reading and writing.
Irina Bokova, UNESCO’s Director-General, said that education must encompass the teaching of human rights, living together and respect for others.
“Every child in the world should know their rights, and learn their own history and that of other peoples, so as to be able to understand the equal dignity of cultures and draw lessons from the crimes and violence of the past,” Ms. Bokova said in her message for the Day.
Extremism thrives in countries with low education rates, which is why groups like the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization race against time to improve educational access in parts of the world where illiteracy and poverty are endemic. Director General of UNESCO Irina Bokova explains that the pressure drives a particular sense of urgency with plans to provide at least a primary school education to every child in every developing country.
The difficulty of the task became clear last year after outspoken advocate for women’s education Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head while boarding a school bus in Pakistan. Yousafzai, now 16, underwent months of medical treatment first in Pakistan and then in Britain. Yousafzai is currently attending school in Birmingham while she continues to recuperate, and has continued to advocate for increased access to education for girls.