High-Level Group meeting urges governments to redouble efforts to achieve Education for All
UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova has called on governments and donors to redouble their efforts to protect educational gains made over the past decade that she says are under threat from the global economic downturn.
Speaking at the Ninth High-Level Group meeting on Education for All (EFA) in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), Ms Bokova lauded the accomplishments of the Education For All (EFA) campaign - including the fact that in Africa 42 million more children are enrolled in primary school this year than in 2000 - but said that the economic recession had caused some governments to cut back on education funding.
The Director-General joined with Education ministers from several African states and education specialists from around the world in a final communiqué that said governments should resist such cuts.
“On the contrary, national governments and donors should multiply their efforts in the current global context to safeguard the hard-won gains made in education over the last decade and offset national revenue losses in the world’s poorest countries,” they said.
The High-Level Group Meeting, which met from 23 to 25 February, warned, “Unless the global community takes determined and targeted action to reach the marginalized, there will be an estimated 56 million children still out of school in 2015.”
Meles Zenawi, Ethiopian Prime Minister, and Jean Ping, Chair of the African Union Commission, led much of the discussion, which centred on the impact of the global recession.
Organized by UNESCO in partnership with the African Union and the Government of Ethiopia, the Ninth meeting of the High-Level Group on Education for All was based on the findings of the 2010 Education for All Global Monitoring Report, “Reaching the marginalized”.
The Report warns that aftershock of the global financial crisis threatens to deprive millions of children in the world’s poorest countries of an education. As a direct consequence of the crisis, public expenditures on educational systems in sub-Saharan Africa could be cut by as much as US$4.6 billion annually in 2010. With 72 million children still out of school, a combination of slower economic growth, rising poverty and budget pressures could erode the gains of the past decade.
In her opening address, Ms Bokova praised African governments for the progress that has been achieved and stressed that it should not be undermined.
“Across the continent, there are governments that have set the example by abolishing school fees, building classrooms, training and retaining teachers, introducing mother tongue teaching and mobilizing community and religious leaders around the value of education,” Ms Bokova said. “These achievements should not be underestimated. They are largely due to strong political commitment and the right policy choices. They have shown us the path to success. The international community must be present to support them.”
In her closing remarks, Ms Bokova emphasized the existence of problems that limit access to education for large sections of society.
Ms. Bokova said “multiple disparities” affect girls particularly. “Girls’ chances of attending and completing school are still unacceptably low,” she said. “I am planning to launch a major initiative in this respect and I count on the support of all EFA partners in understanding and addressing the educational needs of adolescent girls.”
Established to follow up the 2000 World Education Forum in Dakar (Senegal), the High-Level Group Meeting on Education For All is an annual event convened by UNESCO’s Director-General. Its role is to generate political momentum and mobilize financial, technical and political support towards achieving the EFA goals and the education-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Participants at this year’s meeting requested UNESCO’s Director-General to present the Addis Ababa Declaration to the upcoming G-8 Summit (Canada, 25-26 July) and G-20 summit (South Korea, 11-12 November) to ensure that education is prioritized on the international political agenda. It also requested that UNESCO propose concrete measures at the September MDG Summit to enhance the effectiveness of the High-Level Group.
The Government of Thailand will host the next meeting of the High-Level Group on EFA in 2011.
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