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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
January 16, 2007

Mrs. Bush's Remarks in a UNESCO Roundtable
UNESCO Headquarters
Paris, France


January 15, 2007

9:41 A.M. (Local)

MRS. BUSH: Thank you so much, very much, Ambassador. I appreciate it very much. And thank you, Director General Matsuura, for everything you do for education worldwide, and all the other focus issues of UNESCO. I really appreciate it.

I also want to recognize Assistant Director General Smith, and thank you very much for bringing this roundtable together.

Thanks also to each one of you who have agreed to participate in the roundtable, and who work all the time to make sure children and adults are educated worldwide.

And this also gives me the opportunity to recognize each of the observers, all of you who represent other UNESCO countries. Thank you so much for joining us today and for working with all of us to make sure children and adults everywhere learn to read.

Three years ago, UNESCO launched its Decade of Literacy, a 10-year initiative to extend the benefits of reading everywhere, to every corner of the world, and especially to the world's neediest communities. DG Matsuura mentioned more than 800 million people worldwide are illiterate; 77 million children worldwide are not in school. And of the 781 million adults who cannot read a simple book, more than two-thirds of them are women.

Ending illiteracy is a challenge for every country, yet investing in literacy and education helps governments meet their other fundamental requirements, improves opportunities for children and families, it strengthens economies, and it helps keep their citizens in good health.

Literacy instruction requires textbooks and teachers. And one of the things we're going to talk about today is a way that we can make sure teachers are trained around the world.

In Ghana, I visited the Accra Teacher Training Center, which participates in the Textbooks and Learning Materials Program. As part of the program, six American universities are partnered with six countries in Africa, six African governments, to produce and distribute 15 million primary school textbooks for African children. The program is part of President Bush's African Education Initiative, and it's a $600 million commitment that will help train more than 900,000 teachers in sub-Saharan Africa by 2010.

In Kabul, I visited the Teacher Training Institute, which was established through a partnership between the government of Afghanistan and USAID. At the institute, women have a safe dorm to live in when they come in from the provinces to be trained as teachers. Then they go home and they train more teachers in a cascading effect with the purpose of opening and staffing as many schools as possible.

In New York, as DG Matsuura mentioned, our government partnered with UNESCO to host the White House Conference on Global Literacy. The conference brought together 30 first ladies from around the world, and 39 education ministers, representative from 67 nations, and nine panelists who spoke about literacy and programs that are working and transforming lives in each of their countries.

Thank you to UNESCO for your work on the upcoming regional conferences, which will build on the success of the White House conference.

Today I'm looking forward to hearing from each of you about literacy programs that are working in your countries, and I'm excited to hear your thoughts on what all of us can do to promote education for children and adults worldwide.

Thank you all very much. Thank you for joining me for the roundtable. (Applause.)

END 9:45 A.M. (Local)

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