Meeting Will Reinforce Commitment To Education For All
education efforts in the 21st Century must give priority to
New York, April 18 - The world's failure to achieve education
for all can no longer be tolerated, UNICEF Executive Director
Carol Bellamy said today, ahead of the World Education Forum
in Dakar, Senegal, April 26-28 - the biggest global meeting
on education in a decade.
we enter the third millennium, more than 110 million children
- almost two-thirds of them girls - are excluded from schooling,"
Bellamy said. "Given that we now have a global economy of $30
trillion annually, this is indefensible."
children must have access to and complete a basic education
of good quality, she emphasized. "Decent quality education is
a fundamental human right. If we are to reach the goal of education
for all, we must address the underlying causes that exclude
massive numbers of children from school and from learning."
urged that five key areas be embraced by the 1,000 representatives
of governments, funding agencies, and education and civil
society organizations who will agree a framework for action
at the Dakar Forum.
Enrich early development and learning - ensure that
young children are ready for learning and for life - they
must be nurtured from birth in safe, caring and gender-sensitive
environments that enable them to become healthy, well-nourished
- Reach excluded children - get all children into school
and help them stay there, including the most disadvantaged
- girls, working children, children of ethnic minorities,
children affected by violence and conflict, disabilities and
- Enhance girls' education - girls must have full and
equal access to, and achievement in, basic education, and
all forms of gender discrimination in education must be eliminated.
Improve the quality of education - ensure that schools are
ready for children and that children learn what they need
to learn for a healthy and productive life. This requires
quality teaching, physically and emotionally healthy environments,
and relevant curricula. ·
- Restore education in conditions of crisis and emergency
- ensure that all children have access to safe, child-friendly
spaces for learning - spaces which can help them return to
a sense of stability in their lives. Children affected by
HIV/AIDS deserve special effort in this regard.
I had only one wish for Dakar," Bellamy said, "girls' education
would become the global action priority of the coming decade.
Investment in the education of girls is the foundation of
equality between men and women, boys and girls."
Educated girls are less likely to be exploited by their family
or social situation, the UNICEF chief noted. "Educated girls
tend to marry later and have fewer children. They are more likely
to be able to understand important health messages. And children
of educated mothers are better nourished and suffer less illness."
According to the World Bank, each year of schooling girls receive
reduces the under-five mortality rate by up to 10 per cent.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan will deliver the keynote speech
at Dakar to launch the UN's system-wide initiative on Education
for Girls. Equal access to education is one of the main recommendations
of his Millennium Report issued on 3 April, which he hopes will
be endorsed by Member States at a Millennium Summit in September.
The Millennium Summit is also expected to approve the objective
of achieving universal completion of primary school by 2015.
said she hoped the Dakar meeting would reignite commitment and
action for education that was severely challenged during the
1990s by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the expansion of armed conflict
and unprecedented natural disasters. Growing poverty in many
regions of the world has thrust more children into paid and
unpaid labour, and development assistance for education has
not kept up with urgent demands.
clear context for UNICEF's goals, according to Sheldon Shaeffer,
the agency's chief of education, is the 250 million children
presently caught up in child labour.
for all will be a pipe dream until we address the deep poverty
which makes child labour necessary," Shaeffer said. UNICEF is
currently involved in a multi-nation effort to provide educational
opportunities for children who work. Lessons learned today will
be crucial to eventual wide-scale replication of programmes
that prove most effective.
is involved in hands-on education projects across the developing
world. Among current projects:
· In Chad, the number of girls enrolled in first grade
in targeted areas quadrupled between 1997 and 1998. The drop
out rate in the same period fell from 22 per cent to 9 per cent.
· In India gender awareness and improved teacher training
are being advanced in 149 districts in 14 states.
· In northern Iraq, UNICEF has helped renovate more than
300 schools since the beginning of the Oil-for-Food Programme.
Throughout the country, the agency is grappling with run-down
facilities, a lack of textbooks, a shortage of desks, and an
absence of modern teaching methods and adequate teacher training.
· In Liberia, a UNICEF-assisted project helps 15,000-20,000
over-age war-affected children to gain learning skills in an
· In Mauritania, a "girl friendly" model school has been
developed in villages in Guidimagha, a rural region with the
lowest girls' enrolment rates in the country. The school is
affordable, and has a canteen that provides lunch to the students,
sanitation facilities and water, especially for the girls, and
gardens to promote learning about agriculture.
· In Mexico City, the 'Tree House' provides a creative,
participatory space for children to learn about their rights
and to seek support if their rights are violated. Every day
the "Tree House" receives more than 500 children from 3,140
primary schools in Mexico City and the neighbouring State of
Mexico. · In Zambia, advocacy efforts led to the Ministry
of Education allocating 25 per cent of all bursaries to female
students at the university level, with the remaining 75 per
cent awarded based on equal competition between girls and boys.
Dakar meeting is a follow-up to the World Conference on Education
for All held in Jomtien, Thailand, in 1990. It is convened by
five UN agencies - the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the
UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO),
the UN Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), the United Nations
Children's Fund (UNICEF), and the World Bank.
According to Sheldon Shaeffer, some progress has been made since
Jomtien, but many challenges remain and new obstacles have arisen.
many children are failing to learn in unhealthy, unsafe, and
ineffective environments," said Shaeffer. "Too many young people
and adults are still denied access to the skills and knowledge
they need to face their future. The cost of such failures in
a rapidly changing world is immense and cannot be tolerated
any further. The promises made at Jomtien 10 years ago simply
must be kept."
"The continuing imperative to achieve education for all is a
clear and compelling reason for Dakar," Shaeffer said.
further information, please contact: Sally Burnheim or Shantha
Bloemen, UNICEF New York, (+1-212) 326-7566 or 824-6949 Margherita
Amodeo or Hans Olsen, UNICEF Geneva (+41-22) 909-5515 or 909-5517