Current rates of progress in school enrolment need to quadruple in sub-Saharan Africa and double in South Asia to reach the 2015 goal of providing all children with quality basic education, and donors need to double the billions of dollars of aid, the United Nations-backed High Level Group on Education for All (EFA) said today.
A communiqué issued after three days of intense debate in Beijing at the fifth meeting of the Group, the latest follow-up to the World Education Forum held in Dakar, Senegal, in 2000, recognized the progress made since then, but signalled that 100 million children still have no access to school.
A further 771 million adults remain illiterate, the majority of them female, and most of them living in rural areas. According to the Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2006, only 64 per cent of children and in Africa and 83 per cent of children in South and West Asia are enrolled in primary school.
Although the Report shows steady improvement, change is not happening fast enough to achieve the EFA goals set at the Dakar Forum, at which the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was charged with coordinating the work of the EFA partners and sustaining global momentum.
Participants in Beijing – education and development ministers, heads and senior officials of multilateral and bilateral agencies and leaders of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) – pointed to the enduring gap of at least $5 billion dollars a year in the amount required to finance EFA. Donors, they said, should double current levels of Official Development Assistance (ODA) to education and give higher priority to basic education, they said.
At present, only $6 billion of the $62.3 billion in ODA each year goes to education in developing countries. Of this only $1.2 billion goes to basic education in the Low Income Countries.
Higher priority must be given to girls' education and literacy, which is too often neglected by governments and education authorities, the communiqué said, and countries and EFA partners need to progressively remove both formal and informal school fee barriers to enable all children to attend and complete primary schooling by 2015.
Child labour is another obstacle. Participants welcomed the establishment during the meeting of the Global Task Force on Child Labour and Education and endorsed its proposed role for advocacy, coordination and research. Incentives should be provided to the poorest families to support their children's education.
The next Group Meeting will be held in Egypt in November 2006.