More public spending is required in Iraq to ensure quality education for all, a right enshrined in the nation’s constitution, the United Nations said today, as the world body-backed Global Action Week for Education gets under way.
“Iraq faces considerable challenges to improve access to education and guarantee that girls and boys have equal opportunities,” said Christine McNab, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq.
She appealed for stepped-up resources for the Government to ensure that it provides education, from early childhood care and mainstream schooling to literacy and life skills for youth and adults.
Iraq has increased the budget allocated for education from 7.2 per cent in 2008 to nearly 10 per cent last year, but much more needs to be done to meet the 2015 target of 100 per cent enrolment in primary schools in rural areas, one of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and one of the six internationally-agreed targets of “Education for All,” a UN-backed movement launched in 1990.
Global Action Week aims to raise awareness of the importance of “Education for All,” whose importance was reaffirmed by more than 160 nations in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, in 2000.
This year’s week calls on governments and donors to act together and mobilize their resources, as well as to honour the $50 billion pledge to boost education made at the Group of Eight summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, in 2005.
“Of all of the issues confronting Iraq’s children, the decline in children’s right to access quality learning has perhaps the most alarming implications for Iraq’s future, the next generation’s doctors, teachers and leaders,” said Sikander Khan, the Representative of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to the country.
This year’s Education for All-Global Monitoring Report 2010 by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), entitled Reaching the Marginalized, found that the global financial crisis threatens to deprive millions of children in the world’s poorest countries of an education, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, with a knock-on effect on future economic growth, poverty reduction and progress in health and other areas.
“While rich countries nurture their economic recovery, many poor countries face the imminent prospect of education reversals,” UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said when the publication was launched in January, noting the failure of donors to deliver on pledges. “We cannot afford to create a lost generation of children who have been deprived of their chance for an education that might lift them out of poverty.”
The report urges rich countries and the so-called G20 group of developed and developing countries to scale up aid needed to avoid damaging budget adjustments in the poorest countries, stressing that a financing gap of $16 billion a year must be bridged to reach the “Education for All” goals.
Rich countries international and financial institutions are exaggerating how much aid they provide to help poor countries cope with the financial crisis, using “smoke and mirrors” in their reporting, it says.