UNESCO President Zardari meets UNESCO

Paris: President Asif Ali Zardari Monday said that greater collaboration and assistance by UNESCO would help Pakistan addressing some crucial issues including literacy development, streamlining non-formal education, promoting early childhood care, technical and vocational education, teachers training and quality assurance etc, in a significant and effective manner.

This he said during his meeting with Director General UNESCO Ms. Irina Bokova here at UNESCO headquarters in Paris.

Those who were present during the meeting included among others Foreign Minister Ms. Hina Rabbani Khar, Sheikh Waqas Akram, Minister for Education & Training, Ms. Shehnaz Wazir Ali, Special Assistant to the PM, Mr. Shafkat Saeed, Pakistan Ambassador to France and other senior officials.

The President during meeting appreciated the international community and especially the UNESCO for lending its full support to the Government’s efforts for promoting girls’ education and providing further impetus to the mission of Malala.

He thanked UNESCO’s Director General for taking personal interest in arranging a high level advocacy event on Girl’s right to education with the Government of Pakistan and termed it a timely initiative in the run up to achieving the goal of Education for all by the year 2015.

Discussing attack on Malala and the nation’s response to this dastardly act of the obscurantist mindset, the President said that the whole nation was standing behind brave Malala and considers attack on her as an attack on all its daughters and on its values.

He said the Government was undertaking every effort to further promote the mission of Malala as its response to her attackers. He said that the Government has initiated a special program called Waseela-e-Taleem under the umbrella of BISP, the flagship program of the Government, that would send around 03 million girls to schools.

He said the Government was committed to advance girls’ education as an effective tool to defeat militant mindset and to achieve EFA goals.

The President also noted that many customary and cultural practices, at times, put the girls at disadvantage and deny them their basic rights including the right to education. He said that the democratic government was undertaking every effort not only to empower the women but also to address all those issues that hamper their progress and growth.

The President while appreciating the efforts of Ms. Irina Bokova for highlighting the issue of girls’ education lauded her valuable support to the country at every platform, providing assistance to the flood affectees of 2010, helping the country in the Disaster Risk Reduction through Flood Early warning system, training of water scientists and hydro hazard experts, marine scientists in Tsunami Warning systems and the protection of our world heritage sites of Moenjodaro and Makli.

He expressed the hope that UNESCO would continue assisting the people of Pakistan to benefit from its expertise in the education, science and cultural sectors.

Later, the President also witnessed signing of an MoU on setting up Malala Fund for education.

Sheikh Waqas Akram, Minister for Education & Training, and DG UNESCO signed the MoU.

In his remarks while signing the Visitors’ Book in the UNESCO headquarters, the President wrote that he felt honoured in visiting UNESCO on the International Human Rights Day.

Quoting Martin Luther King Jr. who said that “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”, the President noted that “by standing up for Malala and for millions of girls and children around the world who are denied the basic right to education and human dignity, UNESCO once again stands as the defender of our collective conscience”.

“My presence here in this house of peace, together with many supporters for “Girl’s right to education” is a proof that the world is not silent”, wrote the President. He congratulated UNESCO and the Director General Ms. Irina Bokova for supporting a noble cause and wished good luck to UNESCO in all its endeavours.

Later, the President and DG UNESCO also spoke to the media. Talking to media, the President thanked UNESCO for organizing an important event to reiterate the resolve of giving the girls their right to education and, also, as a great show of solidarity with Malala Yousafzai.

There could not have been a better platform than UNESCO to raise the slogan Girls Education is a Right and there could not have been a better day to express our joint resolve for this cause than today said the President in his remarks before a large gathering of newsmen.

He said that Malala’s fight and survival is a reminder of the need for collective efforts to defeat the forces of extremism and darkness.

The President said that reaction of Pakistani people to the attack on Malala demonstrates our national resolve to fight militancy to the finish. Almost every Pakistani girl responded with the call “I am Malala”. “I am Malala”, the President remarked, has indeed become a slogan across the world in support of the girl’s education.

The President reiterated that Pakistan was determined to tread along the path of moderation and modernity and the Government was undertaking every possible effort to promote education in the country.

He thanked Director General Irina Bokova for setting up ‘Malala Fund’ for the promotion of Girl’s education under the umbrella of UNESCO throughout the world.

The President also expressed the hope that joining of hands by various governments and the donors for the cause of education will guarantee that every Malala in Pakistan, indeed throughout the world gets quality education and is prepared to face future challenges.