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  Daily conference journal

 

 
Focus...
 
Kofi Annan Launches New Initiative
for Girls Education
Dakar Sends Strong Message of Hope
 
  The opening session of the World Education Forum began Wednesday in Dakar, on an inspiring note with UN secretary General, Mr. Kofi Annan's launch of a new United Nations global initiative to educate girls.
 
  Mr. Annan, who delivered the keynote address at the opening session, said although some achievements, have been made with the dramatic rise in education levels in many developing countries, there is need for governments and their education partners to accelerate their efforts to fulfil the promise they made of reaching the Education for All (EFA) target which have largely not been met..
 
  "This conference is a test for all of us who call ourselves the international community,'' said Annan. ''Ten years ago, in Jomtien, we set ourselves the goal of basic education for all, we are still far from achieving it.
 
  United Nations figures indicate that more than 880 million adults are illiterate while a quarter of a million children are out of school globally.
 
  "These millions of children are not only being denied something many of us take for granted, they are being denied a fundamental human right spelt out in the international instruments their governments have signed on to, such as the declaration of human rights and the Convention on the Rights of the child.''
 
  ''What is more, the communities where these children live are not only being denied a future labour force of healthy, literate and employable citizens, they are being denied the foundations of development and a future place in the global economy. They are in fact being denied the future itself.''
 
  Mr. Annan pointed out that there is still a "Yawning digital divide" between those who have access to new learning opportunities brought by the explosive technological innovations and those who have not.
 
   For girls who account for two-thirds of children who are out of school, he said, the denial of human rights is twice over. "From issues of morality to issues of mortality, the denial of girls' rights begins in early childhood. When a choice has to be made between educating a boy or a girl, girls are more likely to be kept at home," he said.
 
  "When family income needs to be supplemented, girls are more likely to be sent to work. Even if girls do go to school, they will often have to do housework at the expense of homework.''
 
  To address the imbalance, Annan said the UN system has set up a new initiative aimed at promoting the education of girls and bridging the gender gap in schools by 2005. "We need all those with the power to change things to come together in a global alliance for girls,'' he said.
 
  The initiative is also aimed at ensuring that all children, both boys and girls are able to complete their primary education by 2015.
 
 
Plenary
 
President Abdoulaye Wade
 
Calls for More Concrete Action
 
  President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal opened the World Education Forum on Wednesday at the plush Meridien President hotel in Dakar, in the presence of UN Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan and several heads of international institutions active in the field of education.
 
  In a rather frank speech lacking the usual diplomatic niceties common and such meetings, Wade, who was elected president on 19 March, criticised the donors' interventions in Africa saying they have not produced many good results.
 
  "Their interventions are characterised by tremendous waste and delays that preclude quick and positive results." "Foreign aid to Africa also suffers from the huge amounts of money devoted to numerous studies whose conclusions often end up gathering dust" in various archives.
 
  Wade cited the case of a study currently underway on the railway in Senegal, which has already cost 19 billion CFA francs (about 25 million US dollars) and has not yet been concluded.
 
  He said countries in Asia devote less resources to studies and yet achieve better economic results.
 
  On education, Wade called for "fewer studies and more achievements". In particular, he advocated equal access to education for both sexes. The gap between women and men is due to women's difficult access to school.
 
  "When I was a teacher, I had a class of 85 students, all of them boys", he said, stressing that this has resulted in the unequal representation of men and women in decision-making positions in many institutions of the day. "Even here (Forum), females make up only 0.5 percent of the 1,500 participants. This is what we should correct first of all".
 
  Education in Africa, he said, is beset with the problem insufficient places at the primary school level just as it is difficult for high school graduates to obtain work after their studies. The solution to this phenomenon lies in part in carrying out reforms of the education system. This could involve shortening the secondary cycle and creating a new education cycle comparable to the college system in English-speaking countries.
 
  He said such a system would have the advantage of training larger numbers of students up to a level comparable to the first cycle of higher education and remove the pressure on the universities, which would focus more on graduate postgraduate studies.
 
  Mr. Wade suggested that adult education should take the form of literacy training in national languages. A literate environment simply needs to be created in these languages by publishing newspapers, books and other reading materials to accompany the literacy programmes.
 
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