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Paris 26/10/2001


Paris, 26 October 2001 - Thirty-two countries are at grave risk of failing to enrol all children in primary schools by 2015. In 15 of these countries, less than half of children are attending school.

This warning is contained in a monitoring report released today on Education For All (EFA), a global compact that commits countries to achieve universal primary school enrolment, establish full gender equality in primary and secondary enrolment, and cut adult illiteracy levels in half, all by 2015. This report - prepared by UNESCO with inputs from partner organizations - has been released to coincide with the first annual High-level Meeting on Education for All (October 29-30) at UNESCO Headquarters, part of the follow-up to the World Education Forum held in Dakar, Senegal, in April 2000.

One out of every five school-age child in developing countries does not attend school. In sub-Saharan Africa, Southern Asia and the Arab States, nearly 100 million children, more than 60 percent of them girls, are not in school. All told, the world will need to make room for an additional 156 million school-age children by 2015 over the number enrolled in schools in 1997. Of that total, more than half - 88 million children - will be from sub-Saharan Africa, while South Asian and Arab States will need to find school places for 40 million and 23 million more children, respectively.

A massive effort is required in sub-Saharan Africa, which will have to increase its 1990s pace of enrolment by between 2 and 3 times in order to achieve universal primary education by 2015. Countries at grave risk like Angola, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lesotho, Liberia, Niger and Somalia will need to accelerate ten-fold their 1990s pace of increased enrolment.

The report finds that one in five adults world-wide - some 875 million in all - are illiterate. Halving the adult illiteracy rate between now and 2015 implies adding around 90 million newly literate adults each year on average. East Asia, the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean can meet this EFA target by maintaining almost the same pace as in the past decade. But countries like Egypt and India must increase by two-fold the number of new adult literates, while Bangladesh and Pakistan will need to triple them.

With regard to gender equality in education, the report finds a narrowing enrolment gap over the past decade in all regions except sub-Saharan Africa. But it adds that "while gender disparity is not a serious concern in most of the Latin America/Caribbean and Eastern Asia/Pacific countries, it remains one in many Arab States (and) sub-Saharan African and Southern Asian countries". In certain countries, like Lesotho and Namibia, the gender gap actually favours girls, "a phenomenon that deserves just as much attention as discrimination against girls", the report notes.

African countries like Malawi, Mauritania and Uganda have doubled enrolment to reach nearly 100 percent gross primary enrolment during this decade. Zambia has reported a rise in its national literacy rate from 55 percent in 1990 to nearly 70 percent in 1996. The report warns, however, that many countries are increasing enrolments at the expense of the quality of education.

Sustained donor and national support for EFA over the coming decade is needed, with estimates ranging from $8 to $15 billion additional funding per year over the coming 15 years in order to achieve universal primary education alone. The highest estimate ($15 billion) represents only 0.06 percent of the GNP of donor countries, or 0.3 percent of the GNP of developing countries, the report points out.

The Monitoring Report will serve as a basis for discussions at the inaugural High-level Group meeting, which will bring together 29 key decision makers including sixteen Ministers of Education, UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy, Oxfam Director Barbara Stocking, and ministers of international co-operation from Canada, Denmark, France and the United Kingdom, and the head of Japan's international co-operation agency. Debate will centre on sustaining political commitment, mobilizing financial resource and forging partnerships with civil society organizations.

The 32 countries at risk of failing to reach the EFA goals by 2015 unless "serious action is taken" are Afghanistan, Angola, Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Lesotho, Liberia, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, United Republic of Tanzania, Yemen.

The 2001 Monitoring Report on Education for All (EFA) can be consulted online: UNESCO's EFA homepage / UNESCO's Institute for Statistics

*This classification is mainly based on the trends in net enrolment ratio (NER) over the past decade.
A country is considered as "at a risk" if:
1. Its net enrolment ratio (NER) for the latest year available (around 1997-99) is less or equal to 60 percent;
2. Its NER has decreased significantly during the last decade;
3. Its gross enrolment ratio (of less than 100 percent) has decreased significantly during the last decade.