Ghana, Accra – Former UN Secretary-General Kofi A. Annan will today join fellow
alumni of the Mfantsipim Secondary School to celebrate the 100th birthday of its
former Headmaster Dr. Francis Bartels, and say we should mark the occasion by
reaffirming ”the critical importance of teachers for Africa’s people and societies”.
In a personal address, Mr. Annan will reflect on the remarkable contribution Dr.
Bartels made to his own life, and so many lives, within Ghana and beyond. He will
say that his example demonstrates the vital role teachers play in unlocking Africa’s
potential stating: “The importance of teachers is self-evident. They are one of the
main pillars of a sound and progressive society. They bear the weight and
responsibility of shaping and directing the minds of the next generation. No one is
born a good citizen or able leader; it is teachers who foster them”.
Mr. Annan will praise the remarkable progress Ghana has made in the field of
education over the past decades, but say that unfortunately access to education
remains a distant dream in too many parts of Africa, particularly for girls. He will
call on every family and society to prioritise universal access to education and to
regain respect for the profession of teaching. He will state:
“Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family. On its
foundation rest the cornerstones of freedom, democracy and sustainable human
development. […] It is true that books are important, pencils and blackboards are
important and so are chairs to sit on. But if there are no motivated teachers in front
of the chairs, if there is no one to write on the blackboard and to convey values and
knowledge, Africa’s potential will not be realized”.
Mr. Annan will say the UN Millennium Development Goal of achieving universal
primary education for all by 2015 runs the risk of becoming unrealistic if we do not
move fast in terms of recruiting and improving the working conditions of our
teachers. Across Africa, and indeed the developing world at large, he will say we
need to invest in education systems, encourage private initiatives and initiate major
institutional and policy reforms to place education at the centre of development
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