Thirteen African countries are expected to provide universal primary education by 2015 and another 31 may reach that Millennium Development Goal (MDG) if they invest more in the lower educational levels, according to a new report from the United Nations Educational, Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The report, compiled by UNESCO's Regional Bureau for Africa (BREDA), is entitled "Education for All: Paving the Way for Action" and has been released in Senegal's capital, Dakar. It is the background paper for the three-day discussion of six African-designated educational goals at the "Dakar+5" Africa Forum, which starts today.
To "increase and make more effective the indispensable share coming from external aid" in achieving EFA goals, the UNESCO-BREDA report calls for "a clear contract in the spirit of the Dakar declaration (of 2000) on financing credible policies."
At the tertiary educational level in Africa, "it is generally observed that there are many more leaving higher education (and especially university) than jobs available," the executive summary of the report says.
The UPE goal must be protected, it says. "Then the first level of secondary education must be extended as far as possible, depending on the capacity of physical and financial extension and, at the same time, the other education levels developed according to social needs and economic demands."
From the large amount of data now available from surveys, it says, "What is most striking is the mutual reinforcement of immediate benefits from educational investment on human development (short-term impact of primary schooling on health and social condition and on the reduction of vulnerability to life hazards) and long-term benefits, covering a lifetime (gain in economic independence), or between generations (observation of a 'ratchet effect' of literacy and of its positive effects from one generation to another)."
These positive side effects from basic education legitimize massive government investment in developing primary education, it says, noting that 90 per cent of African children were in primary schools in 2002-2003, compared to 75 per cent in 1990-1991.
Some 46 per cent of children in the later age group were enrolled in the first year of lower secondary schools in 2002-2003, up from 28 per cent in 1990-1991, and 39 per cent in the last year of lower secondary schooling, an increase from 21 per cent in 1990-1991, it says.
Vocational training has remained fairly constant – 13 per cent in 1990 and 14 per cent in 2002, it adds.