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 Johannesburg 08/12/99
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 Johannesburg 06/12/99
 
Education: A tool to reverse Africa's endemic malaise
 
  Johannesburg, 8 December 1999Despite the several obstacles that African countries have met in their efforts to provide education to their nationals, there are encouraging signs that the continent is making progress in expanding access and sustaining enrolment in learning institutions.
 
  During the third day of the sub-Sahara Africa Regional Conference on Education For All (EFA), the chairman of the regional working group, Dr Ko-Chi Tung, told a press briefing that many countries had registered significant growth in school enrolment and expanded access to many children.
 
  He was briefing the press on the draft synthesis report for the Eastern, Central and Southern African Region. Together with him during the press briefing were the National EFA co-ordinator for Senegal, Mr Pape Sow, who represented the West and Central Africa Region. The objective of the briefing was to present the findings of the EFA 2000 Assessment exercise in the sub-Sahara Africa in which 44 countries participated.
 
  Dr Tung said that in many countries, the gender disparity in enrolment was getting narrower, which indicated that the affirmative actions put in place to boost girls education were bearing fruits. On average, 65 per cent of boys and 55 per cent of girls were in schools in many countries in the region.
 
  However, he pointed out that there were wide disparities in some parts of the continent and added that many countries were going through hard times, which hampered the development of education. Poverty, armed conflicts, civil strife, child labour and HIV/Aids, among others, had made it difficult for countries to achieve universal primary education.
 
  "In nine countries, rural primary enrolment lags significantly behind urban, with the gap ranging from 26 percentage points in the Central African Republic to 49 percentage in Burkina Faso," says the report for the Central and Western Africa Region
 
   Presenting the findings from the West and Central Africa Region, Mr Sow said some countries notably Angola, Burundi and Congo had registered declining education standards due to war. He called for intervention measures to end the wars and ensure that peace prevailed and children had access to school.
 
  The two reports indicated that many achievements had been made in areas like early childhood education and adult literacy, which is the bedrock for life-long learning.
 
  According to the report from the Eastern, Central and Southern Africa Region: "Despite the limited involvement of governments in the provision of early childhood care and development facilities, many governments have taken on the responsibility of developing a national curriculum that focuses on the overall development of a child: social, pyschological, pycho-motor, cognitive development of a child."
 
  The reports highlighted the fact that HIV/Aids epidemic was directly affecting the "productiveness of any economic activity." "It is clear that education should be used as a tool to reverse the pandemic, while at the same time the escalation of the pandemic has put severe constraints on its effectiveness," says the report.
 
  Other issues of concern to the education sector that were highlighted by the reports include, environmental protection, culture of peace and understanding.
 
  Dr Tung said the EFA Assessment exercise was a process of incorporating African experiences, aspiration, leadership and ownership of the goals, targets and strategies for realising African Renaissance. The assessment was conducted at the country level using specific and clear guidelines and indicators.
 
   Present during the press briefing were the chief, Education Section Programme Division, UNICEF, Mr Sheldon Shaffer and a consultant with UNICEF's Eastern, Central and Southern African Region office, Mrs Debbie Gachuhi.
 
  The EFA conference, which ends on Friday, is convened by five United Nations agencies - UNESCO, UNICEF, UNFPA, UNDP and the World Bank. The conference is expected to come out with a document that the African Region will present during the global EFA conference in Dakar, Senegal, in April next year.
 
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