Dakar Follow-up Bulletin Board No 10
Special issue

Contents (22 November 2000)
Attachments in this issue:

UNESCO's Director-General stresses 'leadership through partnership' in EFA

In his inaugural speech, Mr Matsuura stressed that the leadership role given to UNESCO at the World Education Forum (Dakar, Senegal, April 2000) is "a vote of confidence as well as an immense challenge. "We interpret the mandate as 'leadership through partnership'," he said, adding that the role of UNESCO is to create synergy within the array of different opinions and perspectives among all partners involved in the follow-up process while respecting that countries through their governments, national NGOs and civil society are the principal authority of the movement.

The objectives of the meeting are to report on the progress made at national, regional and international levels, following the Dakar Forum, and to discuss selected topics of particular interest for follow-up, in particular the development of national plans of action, mobilization of resources and monitoring of the EFA progress at all levels.

Some forty individuals representing countries, regional bodies, national and international non-governmental organizations, as well as donor agencies are taking part in the three-day meeting that ends on Friday.

The Assistant Director-General for Education a.i., Mr Jacques Hallak, who is chairing the meeting, underlined the importance of bringing together technical experts to think and consult together and to share experiences, while underlining that the Working Group is not a decision-making body. "We are here to work, not to talk about principles. The information sharing that will take place during the next three days is decisive for the future of the EFA movement," he said.

The outcomes and recommendations from the meeting will further the Education for All process in the organizations represented and help shape the agenda of the informal High-Level Group to be convened by UNESCO's Director General in April 2001.

Please find the welcome address by UNESCO's Director-General attached to this Bulletin Board.

Regions and countries take up the challenge of Education for All

Regional and national presentations demonstrated the rich variety of activities being undertaken in the wake of the World Education Forum.

In India, for instance, an ambitious new action plan aims to provide relevant basic education for all 6- to 14-year-olds by 2010, generalize five years primary schooling by 2007, eight years schooling by 2010 and address the gender gap and retention.

Senegal’s ten-year plan for Education for All involves wide decentralization, accountability, partnership and regular monitoring. UNESCO and UNICEF are joining forces for West and Central Africa and have drawn up a Memorandum of Understanding in this sense.

Kenya is reviewing its education system, focussing on such vital aspects as globalization, information technologies and what might constitute the most appropriate partnerships. An EFA Task Force, headed by the Education Minister comprises all levels of society including parents and teacher organizations.

The Arab region, which has made significant advances in primary school enrolment, has already elaborated a fully-fledged EFA regional action plan under the umbrella mechanism, ARABEFA. Apart from providing direct support to countries to develop their national plans, three region-wide thematic groupings will address early childhood education, girls' education and literacy. Dr Ali Fakhro of Bahrain called for agencies and bilateral donors to show greater commitment to EFA.

Presentations from Latin America and the Caribbean also showed the commitment to the goals of EFA: parliaments in the Caribbean will endorse the regional EFA plan of action. The Organization of Ibero-American States for Education, Science and Culture (OEI) is focussing on universalizing basic education and eliminating the gender gap in line with the Dakar Framework for Action. Brazil conducted a vast educational reform defining the responsibilities of federal, state and municipal governments.

Although less than 1 per cent of Georgia’s population is illiterate, problems of quality persist at all levels. Georgia’s Deputy Minister of Education, Mr Tamaz Tatishvili, explained that "the drastic transition from a centrally-planned to a market economy has brought about poverty and social inequality." The large number of displaced persons (some 300,000) is also a great concern and the country is tackling the most urgent problems first, providing pupils with psychological rehabilitation, with the help of UNICEF. Capacity for early childhood education will be increased by 20 per cent.

The remarkable work of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the EFA drive was evident from the various presentations. These NGOs expressed their desire to be associated with the preparation of national action plans from the beginning.

The Bangladesh-based NGO, the Dhaka Ahsania Mission, that has a long experience of non-formal education, is today part of the national EFA follow-up committee. The NGO, ROSHNI, which will operate shortly in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan, will address out-of-school youth and those whose education is insufficient.

The Brazilian Association of NGOs reported on its initiative that resulted in "The Latin American Statement on Education for All". It has now received 2000 signatures from educators and researchers.

For Jennnifer Chiwela of the People’s Action Forum in Zambia, the promises and commitment made at Dakar have not yet been translated into action. "We are advancing at snail’s pace," she said. She also cautioned against the practice of funding only school-based education, thus neglecting youth and adults.

Flagship programmes unite efforts in EFA

A series of presentations of flagship programmes during the first day of the Working Group meeting demonstrated a unique collaboration between partners in achieving Education for All. Most presenters highlighted the fact that they were speaking on behalf of a large group of stakeholders working together on EFA issues.

The following flagship programmes were presented:

  1. The United Nations Girls' Education Initiative

  2. Early Childhood Care and Education

  3. HIV/AIDS and Education

  4. Focusing Resources on Effective School Health (FRESH)

  5. Education in Situations of Emergency and Crisis

  6. Teachers and Quality Education

1. Ten years to end the gender gap in education

The goal of the United Nations Girls' Education Initiative is to mount a ten-year sustained campaign to improve the quality and availability of girls' education according to the goals set out in the Dakar Framework for Action and through existing mechanisms. "We are not asking for new plans. Our aim is to have existing EFA plans address gender issues thoroughly," according to Mary Joy Pigozzi of UNICEF

The initiative was announced by the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the World Education Forum in Dakar.

The five strategic objectives of the UNGEI are to build political and resource commitment, to end the gender gap and discrimination within education systems, to help girls' education in crisis, and to eliminate ingrained gender bias that limits the demand for girls' education.

Last month Egypt was the first country to officially launch a national UNGEI initiative. In the next twelve months, the Egyptian Minister of Education will put in place a strategy to achieve gender parity by 2005 and gender equality by 2015, in close co-operation with local representatives of the UNGEI Task Force comprising UNESCO, UNDP, UNICEF, UNIFEM, UNFPA, WFP, ILO and the World Bank.

According to Ms Pigozzi, the process being undertaken in Egypt can serve as guidance to other countries wishing to participate in the UNGEI.

2. Need for development of new indicators on early childhood care and development

One of the main challenges of the flagship programme on Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) is to establish better systems to monitor and evaluate programmes across different settings. Kathy Bartlett, who presented the flagship programme on behalf of Consultative Group on ECCD, a consortium that has existed for more than fifteen year, underlined the need for reviewing, developing and field-testing appropriate indicators for ECCD.

"It is essential to collect experiences to understand what is happening on the ground," Ms Bartlett said, adding that more information and documentation are needed on the impact of early literacy programmes and the workings and quality of partnerships in ECCD.

3. Minimizing the impact of HIV/AIDS on education

UNICEF, UNESCO and USAID presented this inter-agency initiative which aims to mitigate the impact of AIDS on education and to enhance prevention programmes.

Françoise Caillods of UNESCO’s International Institute for Educational Planning spoke of the impact of HIV/AIDS on education in Southern Africa and warned that if this issue was not tackled immediately, these education systems would collapse. Emilie Vargas-Baron of USAID evoked the link between AIDS and crisis and the necessity in particular to address vulnerable groups, people in war-torn countries, refugees or internally displaced persons and child-soldiers.

This inter-agency initiative focuses on promoting child-friendly and health promoting schools, life skills-based education, training and supporting teachers and expanding the links between schools and community-based programmes. Other activities include studies to measure the impact of AIDS on education systems, encourage countries to prepare their own strategies, define measures focused on teachers, and information-sharing to disseminate findings and best practices. There was general agreement that, if efforts were to have some success, action should cut across all sectors: education, health and social services.

4. Focusing Resources on Effective school Health (FRESH)

How can children learn when they are hungry and in poor health? The FRESH flagship programme that was launched at the Dakar Forum by UNESCO, UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank is an attempt to focus resources on the school-age child through an effective school health, hygiene and nutrition programme.

The FRESH framework proposes four basic core components of a school health programme: health-related school policies, provision of safe water and sanitation, skills-based health education and school-based health and nutrition services.

"The framework is intended as a basis from which individual countries can develop their own strategy to match local needs," said Anna-Maria Hoffmann-Barthès of UNESCO, who presented the programme

Several new joint and collaborative efforts are underway to promote the FRESH framework. At the international level, links between health and education will be reinforced through information sharing of best practices and concerted action. At regional level, several collaborative mechanisms that will allow countries to prepare and implement their national plans of action have been established and technical meetings are being organized. At the national level, concrete support is being proposed to countries, such as guidelines on how to create health promoting schools and technical assistance.

5. New inter-agency effort to promote education in conflicts and wars

The prevalence of conflicts in more than fifty countries has prompted UN agencies to address the right to education in time of war, in the knowledge that any interruption in educational delivery is a direct threat to this right. This initiative endeavours to restore access to learning as rapidly as possible and insists that education must be funded with the same urgency as life-saving emergency assistance. A recent inter-agency consultation launched a flagship programme on this topic (Geneva, 8-10 November 2000) and defined some practical strategies and mechanisms. One of them is the "Network on Education in Emergencies", (to include UNESCO, UNHCR and UNICEF, a donor agency and an NGO), designed to reinforce co-operation between all actors in humanitarian assistance. Task teams will address information-sharing and networking, learning materials, and how to tackle formal and non-formal post-primary education in emergency situations

6. Improving the quality of education through teachers

The increased focus on educational quality has the potential to bring teachers back into the heart of the education debate. Monique Fouilhoux of Education International stressed,in her presentation on Teachers and Quality of Education, that every discussion on quality has to relate to teachers. "If governments like to have quality they must also be prepared to regard the amount of resources invested in education as part of the measures needed," Ms Fouilhoux said.

Sheldon Shaeffer of UNICEF highlighted the need for a broader view of quality, focusing on the learning processes, the school environment and the role and responsibilities of teachers in, for example, eliminating gender bias in education.

Information Contact: Anne Muller (a.muller@unesco.org)