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Press releases > Dakar 27/04/2000
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UNICEF Calls for Debt Forgiveness for Education
   DAKAR, April 27, 2000 - UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy today called on the world's donor countries to forgive immediately the debt of poor countries that have a viable plan for achieving the goal of education for all.
  Addressing the World Education Forum in Dakar, Senegal, Ms. Bellamy urged delegates and the international community to accelerate efforts to ensure that education plans and programmes receive adequate support. "No country seriously committed to basic education will be thwarted in the achievement of this goal by lack of resources," said Ms. Bellamy, quoting a draft Framework of Action being considered for adoption by the Forum.
   Ms. Bellamy said that the effort can only succeed with the active support of all sectors of society -- families and communities, governments and funding agencies, service providers of all sectors, the media, the private sector, and civil society. In this regard, UNICEF urged the Forum to try to ensure that all children are in school by 2005 and that the 2015 targets be reached by 2010.

  Ms. Bellamy urged that five key areas be embraced by the 1,500 participants of the Forum:

* Enrich early child care and learning -- children must be nurtured from birth in safe, caring and gender-sensitive environments to ensure they are healthy, well-nourished and ready to learn.

* Reach excluded children -- get all children into school and help them stay there -- girls, ethnic minorities, working children, children affected by violence, conflict, disabilities and HIV/AIDS.

* Enhance girls' education -- girls must have full and equal access to, and achievement in, basic education. All forms of gender discrimination in education must be eliminated.

* Improve education quality -- schools must be child-friendly so children learn what they need for a healthy, productive life. This means quality teaching, physically and emotionally healthy environments, and relevant curricula.

* Restore education in emergencies -- children need safe, child-friendly spaces to help them regain a sense of stability. Children affected by HIV/AIDS deserve special effort.

   Noting the education is the right of all children -- and the obligation of all governments, Ms. Bellamy stressed the urgency of ensuring access to quality education for the most marginalized children.
   "We must recognize that getting the last five to 30 per cent of children into school is likely to require more innovative approaches -- and be more expensive -- than the first 70 to 95 per cent," she said.
   Girls make up the largest single group of children out of school. UNICEF has been asked to continue to lead the UN girls' education initiative, announced by Secretary-General Kofi Annan in Dakar yesterday.
  "It is a global scandal that the vast majority of the more than 110 million school-age children not in school are girls," said Ms. Bellamy, noting the need for an all-out global effort to crack this major impediment to education for all. Girls' education is a proven 'best investment' for human, social, and economic development, she said. "But most importantly, it is every girl's right -- and to forget this is to imperil our global future."
  Ms. Bellamy said that the Framework of Action being negotiated in Dakar must single out girls' education as a priority. With the experience of the last decade and longer, she said, we know how to do this. As one example, we must ensure that schools are located where girls can reach them safely and that every school has separate and functioning latrines for girls and boys. Young, female teachers are also an important factor in attracting and keeping girls in school.
  Ms. Bellamy also appealed to the Forum on behalf of other groups of children excluded from school, notably the world's 250 million working children, as well as children of ethnic minorities, and children affected by disabilities, violence and conflict, and HIV/AIDS.
  "Most urgently, children affected by HIV/AIDS deserve our immediate attention. We must ensure, with creative and dynamic life-skills programmes that both transmit information and change behaviour, that education has an impact on the pandemic -- on decreasing the rate of the transmission of the virus.
  "We must come to grips with the calamitous effects that the AIDS virus is having on communities and institutions, including educational systems, and find ways to mitigate its impact as much as humanly possible," said Ms. Bellamy.
  In parts of Africa, she said, it has been estimated that 30 per cent or more of teachers and teacher educators are HIV-positive and likely to die within the decade; that as many as 40 per cent of senior education managers may be ill and dying; and that vast numbers of children are becoming orphaned.
  New technologies such as Internet connectivity and radio instruction were also addressed at the Forum whereby the focus was on how they can be used more creatively to reduce rather than increase, disparities in access to quality learning.
  UNICEF is one of five UN agencies convening the World Education Forum. The others are the UN Development Program (UNDP), UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), UN Fund for Population Activities, and the World Bank.
 "There is no single solution to increasing access to education and improving its quality," said Ms. Bellamy. "Rather, there are thousands of proven local and national solutions. Over the past decade we have learned many lessons about what works. We have put structures in place and achieved successful results in many countries. Now is the time to use these solid foundations to build for Education for All for the future."
See also UNICEF's webpage devoted to Education for All
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