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Youth Raise Right To Education Demand in Togo
By Noel Tadegnon, Inter Press Service
 LOME, Apr 25 (IPS) - Young Togolese activists are using the upcoming World Forum on Education in Dakar, Senegal, to remind their government of the commitment made 10 years ago to promote Education for All (EFA) people.
  A nationwide campaign was recently launched by the youth in which they are calling for ''Quality Education for All'' from their government.
 In a series of activities spread over one week they said it was high time the government delivered on its campaign pledge to provide ''Education for All in the Year 2000''.

 In a statement submitted to the authorities, the young activists pointed out that many of their peers, especially those living in rural areas, do not have access to education. The situation for girls, they added, is even worse.

  "We have the right to an education, and we respectfully request that you provide it during our lifetime,'' they assert in their message.
 In Togo, universal education for all children and adults is a distant dream. The selling of children into slavery is often cited as an obstacle to the spread of education.
  In rural areas, illiterate children are torn from their parents by agents and sold into slavery in other African countries, to work under the most abominable conditions.
 One of the fundamental reasons for this situation is poverty. The destitute parents believe they are delivering their children over to people who will provide them with a good education and a better life. But in fact the children are severely abused.
 ''Parents who can no longer feed or educate their children prefer to give them over to these shady characters for ridiculously small sums of money. To them, it means fewer mouths to feed,'' laments an official of a non-governmental organization (NGO).
  The children, who are then placed or resold, work as domestics or as farm or factory workers. They are exploited in every way. The girls, specially, suffer sexual violence. They receive no education whatsoever.
  Elisabeth Blanchet, a French photographer, has done a photo report on domestic maids, who, for the most part, are minors. These pictures show children, who live from hand-to-mouth, getting their education on the streets.
 There are some programmes designed to help these street children. Suzanne Aho, director of Mother and Child Protection Services, was able to create a group of them and provide them with some schooling. Others have been sent to vocational centers or have been encouraged to return to school.
 The educational system in Togo is in a mess. For many years, political and social unrest has disrupted school functioning, especially in public schools.
 Strikes have become commonplace, and some teaching staff are demanding they should be part of the civil service. Others insist they must be given several months of unpaid wages.
 The University of Benin in Lome is experiencing similar problems. The students and staff are continually calling for improved facilities and working conditions, as well as the timely payment of scholarships, university assistance, and salaries.
 The Togolese government, which is in a severe economic crisis, has not been able to satisfy the needs of the student and faculty, who began an indefinite strike on Apr. 12.
  Agitated students hold demonstrations which often degenerate into violence and destruction. This year on Mar. 20, skirmishes on the Lome campus between students and unidentified individuals left one person dead and two gravely injured.
  Some days before that incident, the office and car of the director of the National Center for University Affairs were vandalized. Several students were arrested and indicted. Those who fled have warrants out for their arrest.
  'Togo's education system is no longer able to meet the expectations of students and teachers.
'Togolese parents who can afford to pay are sending their children outside the country for an education but that is just a small percentage. The majority of Togo's youth have no choice but to press for reforms and improvements in education.
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