Third meeting of the working group on Education for AllParis - More than 100 million children around the world, most of them girls, do not go to school. If nothing is done, they will join the 875 million adults who are illiterate.
The World Education Forum, held in Dakar (Senegal) in 2000, took up this challenge by setting a goal of universal primary education by 2015. Two years later, the first results of these efforts are coming in.
An Education for All (EFA) Working Group of representatives of international and non-governmental organizations, developing countries and bilateral organizations responsible for following up the Dakar Forum, met at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on July 22 and 23.
"Two years on from Dakar, we see progress in putting mechanisms and resources into place to move the EFA agenda forward," said UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura. "We must take the measure of our joint international efforts to guarantee that no population group remains marginalized from appropriate educational opportunities and no country is abandoned or overlooked, including countries in conflict and in post-conflict situations"
Among the 70 countries that have already drawn up national programmes to implement the Dakar Framework for Action, Burkina Faso and India told the meeting about their experiences.
In 1999, Burkina Faso adopted a 10-year basic education development plan that was launched last year. Some 45% of the population live below the poverty line with an annual per capita income of US$220 or less, and just 27% can read and write. The government designated 20 provinces as priority areas because of their low school enrolment and decided to increase the basic education budget by 6.8% by 2009. It is also handing over responsibility for non-formal education - literacy and training for out-of-school children - to NGOs, community groups and trade unions working in this field.
India says literacy - among its population of one billion with an annual per capita income of US$450 - rose from 52.2% in 1991 to 65.4% last year. It has opened 130,000 new schools, enrolled 24 million more children and has net school enrolment of 71%. The government has decided to focus its efforts on five states, home to three-quarters of the country's out-of-school children and to step up involvement of NGOs. It says the national action plan will be ready by the end of this year.
At the international level, the World Bank has launched its Fast-track Programme in line with commitments made at the International Conference on Financing Development in Mexico in March and at last month's G8 Summit in Canada. This new programme will focus on funding Education for All in 18 countries considered the most in need and meeting set requirements. They are Albania, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guyana, Honduras, Mauritania, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Niger, Tanzania, Uganda, Vietnam, Yemen and Zambia. It will step up existing aid for five other countries - Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan.
According to the Bank, an additional 2.5 to 5 billion US dollars a year are needed to achieve the target of universal primary education by 2015. Education is currently primarily financed from national budgets, while the international community on average contributes about 3% of the funding.
"We welcome the pledges of Monterrey and the G8 Summit in Canada," Mr Matsuura said. "The idea of a development compact is highly attractive and the broad emphasis on issues of good governance, such as democracy, human rights, accountability and responsibility, is welcome. Allow me, however, to briefly raise a cautionary note by asking whether this stress on governance will always be helpful to education. If increased support to education is made dependent on the wide-scale reform of an entire system of governance, education may be held back through no direct fault of its own. Perhaps it would be preferable for educational assistance to be linked to the reform of the administration, governance and accountability of the education system itself."
The High-Level Group on Education for All (comprising government ministers and officials of international NGOs and bilateral and multilateral bodies) will meet in Abuja (Nigeria) on November 19 and 20, to be followed by a conference of donor countries, organized by the European Commission on November 27 in Brussels (Belgium).
For more information:
Dakar Follow-up Unit, UNESCO Education Sector
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Fax. (+33) (0)1 4568-5626/7
Documents available on the website :
- An international strategy to put the Dakar Framework for Action on Education for All into operation(UNESCO, 2002)
- Dakar Framework for Action (UNESCO, 2000)
- The High-Level Group on Education for All, 2001 Report (UNESCO, 2000)