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Press releases > Johannesburg 06/12/1999
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 Johannesburg 06/12/99
 
President Mbeki inaugurates sub-Saharan
conference on Education for All
 
  Johannesburg, 6 December 1999 - The sub-Sahara regional conference on Education for All (EFA) opened in Johannesburg on Monday, with South African President Thabo Mbeki calling on the regional leaders to cooperate in the provision of education.
 
  This conference is the first in a series of six regional conferences, which will examine country EFA reports submitted for the EFA 2000 Assessment, the most in-depth evaluation of basic education ever undertaken.
 
  The South African leader, who gave a keynote address during the official ceremony, called on African states to allow students from the region to study in the different countries to exploit the opportunities available in the continent.
 
  He called for collaboration in research, academics, science and technology to promote the continent's socio-economic development.
 
  "Through exchanges of academics from different countries and the twinning of institutions, we shall cease to see ourselves simply as fulfilling national roles, but be actively part of continental development," he said.
 
  He added: "There is no reason why students themselves should not be exposed to studying in other countries, in this way developing a continental consciousness of development."
 
  The conference is taking place at the Movenpick Indaba Hotel, Johannesburg, and is running concurrently with the biennial meeting of African education ministers organised by the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA). Some five hundred participants attend the two conferences including forty African ministers of education.
 
  Highlighting the impact of Aids/HIV on education and other aspects of socio-economic development, President Mbeki urged African scholars to lead in the initiatives to tackle the epidemic.
 
  The intelligenstia, he added, should come out of "their academic cocoons" and join the rest of the Africans in finding solutions to the numerous problems afflicting the continent, including poverty, disease, ignorance and wars.
 
  President Mbeki, who took a swipe at the colonial education for stunting the intellectual growth of the Africans, urged the current crop of leaders to reform their education systems to reflect the emerging needs of the region and liberate the minds of the learners.
 
  Quoting the renown Kenyan writer and critic, Prof Ngugi wa Thiongo, who now lives in exile in the United States, President Mbeki said: "The African child must no longer be subjected to the mental domination that [Prof] Ngugi has spoken about. We are liberating ourselves and now reside in mental universes of our own making, for our own progress and prosperity."
 
  Education for the 21st century, he told the gathering of experts, educationists, donor agencies and civil society, must focus on science, engineering and information technology.
 
  He said new education approaches should be formulated to enable children in disadvantaged conditions - slum dwellers, war victims, rural poor, pastoralists, among others - to get access to basic learning.
 
  The chairman of the Organisation of African Unity conference of ministers, Mr Ignatius Chombo, challenged the governments to increase their expenditure to education from the current average of two per cent to between six and eight per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
 
  "As our heads of states have made this commitment, their words should be translated into reality," he said.
 
  Mr Chombo, the minister for higher education for Zimbabwe, criticised the way donor-funded educational projects were being implemented, saying most of them never improved the learning conditions in the continent.
 
  He said the debt relief packages that the developed nations and donor agencies have pledged to Africa and other developing countries have not been implemented, adding that the bulk of this should be invested in education.
 
  The South African Minister for Education, Prof Kader Asmal, said the EFA 2000 Assessment exercise had provided the various countries with the opportunity to examine the real status of education in their countries, thus make it possible for the governments to make strategic measures to redress the emerging issues.
 
  "The greatest thing about it is that it tells the unvarnished truth. The EFA performance indicators enable us to read the condition of our system as never, and confirm or correct our strategic direction," he said.
 
  Prof Asmal decried the impact of political conflicts and war on education in the continent, saying they had led to displacement of many children thus contributing to the rising numbers of out of school youths.
 
  The opening ceremony was also addressed by the Vice President, Human Development Network, World Bank, Mr Eduardo A. Doryan, UNESCO official, Ms Aicha Bah and Norwegian Education Minister Mr Jon Lilletum. The conference will end on Friday.
 
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