South Africa's President read fellow leaders a lesson before inviting them to join him at Sunday's World Cup final.
Just hours before the Dutch-Spanish final, President Jacob Zuma convened leaders from Burkina Faso, Kenya, Togo, Mozambique, The Netherlands and neighbouring Zimbabwe at an education summit in the capital.
He urged African leaders to ensure parents don't have to pay school fees or buy uniforms, factors that keep children out of school. He also called on leaders from developed countries to honour pledges to support education in poor countries.
“We convened this summit because of our strongly held view that the first soccer World Cup tournament on African soil should have a lasting legacy,” said Mr. Zuma at the meeting, which was also attended by U.N. and international sporting officials.
“The most important investment in the future of any nation is in education,” he said. “No legacy could be higher than that.”
The summit is the culmination of 1GOAL, a campaign supported by football's governing body FIFA to use the attention the World Cup commands to publicise the need to get more children into school. An estimated 72 million children aren't in school and millions more do not have access to quality education, according to 1GOAL.
1GOAL has brought in luminaries from sports, entertainment and politics to push the campaign — Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, Colombian pop star Shakira, Hillary Clinton and others.
“Football can create chances where there is no hope, and this will remain our mission into the future,” said FIFA President Sepp Blatter at the meeting. Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said the financial crisis could not be an excuse.
“Destroying education and health systems by cutting budgets is not the way to achieve sound economic recovery,” he said. Ensuring all children have a chance to finish at least primary school is one of eight goals set at a U.N. conference in 2000.
The Millennium Development Goals, which include halving poverty and halting the spread of AIDS as well as the education target, were to be met by 2015. With five years to go, the struggle to meet the deadline will the subject of a U.N. conference in September in New York.