Pretoria - The most important investment any state, particularly those in Africa and the developing world, can make is in education, says President Jacob Zuma
Speaking at the launch of the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon's Global Initiative on Education - the Education First Initiative - in New York, Zuma was optimistic that Africa and other developing countries would benefit from the programmes and projects which flowed from the initiative.
The initiative came at a time when approximately 72 million children world-wide still did not attend school, with almost half of those living in Africa, he noted.
In addition, more than 700 million adults across the world did not have basic literacy skills and as a result were subjected to extreme poverty as well as social and economic marginalisation.
"They are unable to realise their hopes and aspirations for a better life. Lack of education virtually means that they have to face the challenges of life with both hands tied behind their backs," Zuma said.
Leaders and representatives of the international community needed to commit to the important new initiative, the President said, adding that education for children and youth was the collective responsibility of all member states of the UN.
Zuma has accepted an invitation to be one of 10 inaugural member state champions for the initiative. The champions will provide support to the UN Secretary-General in order to ensure strong visibility and the success of the initiative.
"The Secretary-General's initiative enables us to recommit ourselves to working in partnership to ensure that the dream of education for countless millions of people across the world becomes a reality.
"We therefore owe it to future generations to make a success of this initiative, and to provide the youth with education, which is a powerful instrument for global peace and the development of humankind," he said.
In the South African context, government had made education one of its five priorities, Zuma pointed out.
This commitment to education as a driver for development had led government to commit the largest part of its annual budget to Basic and Higher Education.
South Africa was honoured to be part of the inaugural Group of Member State Champions for the Education First Initiative and to participate in the historic launch of the Initiative, he added.