Also participating in the event was the African Union Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology, Professor Nagia Essayad.
In his opening remarks, the Director-General thanked Ministers for their contribution to the general policy debate of the General Conference, as well as for their participation in the Ministerial Round Table on Education and Economic Development, held at UNESCO on 19 and 20 October (see Flash Info N° 145-2007). He referred to the Round Table communiqué “as a powerful statement on the importance of education to achieving equitable and sustainable development”. Mr Matsuura also mentioned the very useful meeting that the Group of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) had held on 18 October, chaired by the Minister of primary education, literacy and national languages of Benin.
The Director-General drew attention to the “long and fruitful” cooperation between UNESCO and Africa in the field of education. In this context, he recalled the recent UNESCO Regional Literacy Conference for Africa, organized in Bamako, Mali, on 10-11 September (see Flash Info N° 118-2007). He also drew attention to the forthcoming Education for All (EFA) High-Level Group Meeting, to be held in Dakar, Senegal, on 11-13 December. While addressing overall global progress towards the six EFA goals, the High-Level Group will give particular focus to the challenges faced by Africa.
Mr Matsuura explained that the present meeting offered an opportunity to discuss in an informal way UNESCO’s initiatives and activities in Africa. He underlined that COMEDAF provided the formal framework for UNESCO’s cooperation with Ministers of Education of Africa.
Turning to UNESCO’s action on the continent, the Director-General referred to the three EFA flagship programmes – TTISSA, LIFE and EDUCAIDS – as specifically targeted at meeting the continent’s basic education needs. “I am happy to see that these initiatives are taking root”, he said, underlining that the entire Education Sector – Headquarters, Field Offices and Institutes – was engaged in their implementation. Mr Matsuura also referred to the support UNESCO was providing to the second African Union Decade on Education in Africa. This he said “would be a priority for the Organization under the next medium-term strategy”.
The Director-General underscored that UNESCO’s action in Africa was focused primarily on achieving EFA. However, he also pointed to the need to address other emerging needs on the continent. “The success of an increasing number of countries in expanding primary education is creating new demands for secondary and even higher education. There is likewise renewed interest in technical and vocational education and training in many parts of the world. The needs of higher education, too, are claiming greater attention. This mounting emphasis on post-primary education is important and must be addressed”, he said. Mr Matsuura stated that he would be following the outcomes of the meeting very closely.
Author(s): Office of the Spokeswoman - Source: Flash Info N° 160-2007 - Publication Date: 26-10-2007