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Target to get girls into school missed by miles

Much worse than predicted: new figures show target to get girls into school missed by miles

At the start of the United Nations World Summit in New York, the Global Campaign for Education, the Global Movement for Children and UNESCO highlights new data that shows 94 countries have missed the gender parity target rather than the 71 countries predicted in the last EFA Global Monitoring Report.

Source: Global Campaign for Education

The new data, to be published in the 2006 Education For All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report, is released early in a joint statement on the future of the Millennium Development Goals on education and the progress, or lack of it, in getting the 100 million children, 57 per cent of whom are girls, currently not in school, into school by 2015.

The statement highlights that the first target, to get as many girls as boys into school by 2005 has been missed. The latest draft outcome document issued ahead of the 2005 World Summit makes no reference to the fact that the target of eliminating gender disparities in education by 2005 has been missed

The statement represents a novel partnership between major educational civil society organisations and a United Nations agency coming together to highlight the lack of progress on a key UN goal.

Statement

The Missed Target: Swept under the carpet?

In 2000, 189 governments under the aegis of the United Nations General Assembly agreed on a set of goals for development across the world with targets for improvements by 2015. One of these Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) included a target of eliminating gender disparities in education by 2005.

While some progress has been made towards meeting the gender parity target, new data suggests that rather than the 71 countries thought to have missed the gender parity target, a worrying figure in its own right, it has actually been missed in 94 out of 149 countries and projections show that 86 countries are at risk of not achieving the gender parity target even by 2015 . More than 100 million children are still out of school and 57 per cent of them are girls. In some areas of sub-Saharan Africa the situation is even worse. In Chad 42 percent of school-age children are out of school, and of these 63.7 percent are girls .

The latest draft outcome document issued ahead of the 2005 World Summit makes no reference to the fact that the target of eliminating gender disparities in education by 2005 has been missed. While being important in its own right, this target was set first because girls’ education is an important catalyst to achieving all the MDGs. Missing this first target therefore carries implications for their achievement.

Education is a route out of poverty, but investing in girls’ and women’s education has particularly beneficial effects: It empowers girls and women to improve their own lives and the lives of their families. Girls who complete primary education are less likely to become HIV positive. Their children are more likely to survive infancy and to be healthy. According to research, had the 2005 target for gender parity in education been reached, one million childhood deaths a year could have been averted.

That the 2005 target has been missed with no frank and open acknowledgement in the draft outcome document and with no clear plans to redress the situation is disturbing. Efforts to eliminate gender disparities in education must continue and, indeed, must be strengthened.

The 2005 World Summit was conceived as the forum where progress towards the targets and goals is checked and acted upon. Success requires such candid and public assessments of the work towards the MDGs. The 2005 target may have been missed but the commitment to the goal must be reaffirmed, and clear plans and priority actions for achieving it must be agreed upon.

Unless world leaders openly acknowledge the missed target in the 2005 World Summit outcome document and take action to rectify the situation, this first and vital target risks being swept under the carpet.

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