Zuma accepted the invitation to be one of 10 inaugural member state champions for the initiative, presidency spokesperson Mac Maharaj said on Wednesday.
"The champions will provide support to the UN SG in order to ensure strong visibility and the success of the initiative." Zuma was "honoured" by the invitation and satisfied that South Africa's participation would allow the projects to benefit other African countries.
A number of problems have faced education in South Africa recently. In Limpopo schools did not receive textbooks for the first seven months of the school year. Zuma set up a presidential task team to discover how the delays were caused and find those responsible.
In the Northern Cape, thousands of pupils returned to school this week after protests, not education-related, forced the closure of 41 schools in June.
There have also been reports that 11 000 Eastern Cape teachers could lose their jobs because of a financial shortfall.
Maharaj said the aims of the Education First initiative were very similar to those of the 2010 Fifa World Cup Education Summit, which Zuma hosted in Pretoria. "The objective of that summit was to reaffirm and demonstrate the international political commitment to provide quality basic education for all by 2015."
According to Education First's website, achieving the Millenium Development Goals for education would be a positive step towards achieving the other goals. "The initiative aims to raise the political profile of education, strengthen the global movement to achieve quality education and generate additional and sufficient funding through sustained advocacy efforts."
The steering committee include Ban, former prime minister of the United Kingdom Gordon Brown and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. – Sapa