On 4 March, the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, participated in the launch of the exhibition "Journeys to School" at the UN Headquarters. The exhibition, featuring photos taken by 18 photojournalists in 13 countries, was made possible by a partnership between UNESCO, Veolia Transdev and Sipa Press. The inauguration took place in the presence of the UN Secretary-General, Jean-Marc Janaillac, Chief Executive Officer of Veolia Transdev and Olivier Megean, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Sipa Press.
“Journeys to School tells a gripping story of courage and determination,” said UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, at the inauguration of the photo exhibition, illustrating the challenges children around the world face on their way to school. “These images capture the extraordinary resolve of boys and girls to overcome all challenges – whether these concern gender, disability, location, ethnicity, conflict of natural disasters,” continued the Director-General.
The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the event with a powerful statement about education as a transformative force. “I have seen the power of education in my life, my country and our world,” said the Secretary-General. “I urge all the world’s leaders to give priority to the Global Education First Initiative in their national policies.”
Jean-Marc Janaillac of Veolia Transdev stated that “in providing the means to enable a growing number of children around the world to reach class, public transport plays an important daily role in helping make the right to education a reality for all.”
Olivier Megean of Sipa Press said “these stories reveal the striking resilience of the children, their mothers, fathers, teachers, volunteers and NGOs, and a collective determination to build a better future through education.”
One of the adolescents featured in the exhibition, 14 years-old Santiago Muños from New York, travels over two hours to get to the Bronx High School of Science, a prestigious public school.
“I believe I can achieve anything if I work hard, and if I am well educated, I will receive a scholarship to college” said Muños, who wakes up at 5:10 a.m. to catch the 5:50 a.m. bus. “I didn’t think my transportation is that difficult compared to students who live in war zones”.
After New York, the exhibition will travel for three years, until 2015. It will arrive at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris in April 2013, before it goes on its world tour. A publication with the same photos is also available in English and French.