World Cup legacy campaigners have welcomed a call by African heads of state to make education an urgent priority.
In the first ever political talks called because of a sporting event, world leaders answered campaigners’ calls for political action to make sure every child can go to school before the next World Cup in 2014. Speaking to African heads of state at the Education for All Summit on Sunday, South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma said the World Cup could leave no greater legacy than that of education. "The most important investment in the future of any nation is in education. No legacy can be higher than that," he said.
The President told the summit, set up by 1Goal, the campaign to make education for all a legacy of the 2010 World Cup, that about 72 million children across the world are not going to school, and half of those children were in Africa.He called on African countries to focus on the basics, such as trying to make sure school fees and uniforms did not act as a barrier to education. "We have to fund feeding schemes to ensure that children are healthy and physically ready to study. We have to strengthen ties with community and non-governmental organisations, the religious sector and others to help us reach children in remote areas who are not attending school," the President said. More teachers needed to be hired and trained, to improve the quality of learning and teaching, and more investments had to be made in programmes that prevent children from dropping out of school, he said.
Other speakers at the summit also emphasised the need for the World Cup to leave behind a legacy that would impact on future generations. "While this World Cup Summit hasn't solved the education crisis today, it has insisted the crisis must be solved,” said 1goal President Kailash Satyarthi. “Millions of people have shown a yellow card to world leaders demanding an end to the injustice that locks one in ten of the world's children out of school. We hope today marks the first step on the path to an education for those children." 1Goal is calling on poor countries to up their spending on education to 20 per cent of their national budget. It also wants a roadmap to set out how to get all African children in school by the 2014 Brazil World Cup. It comes as African education spending is being slashed by as much as £3 billion. Some of the biggest names in world football including Pele, Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo, as well as teams such as Manchester United and Barcelona are backing to the 1Goal campaign.