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Millions Of Children With No Hope Of Education

Governments Fail Millions Of Children With No Hope Of Education – UN Report

New York, Nov 25 2008 1:10PM

Millions of children around the world are denied opportunities to go to school, condemning them to a life of poverty, a United Nations report says today, blaming governments and international aid donors for not taking on the task of reducing global inequalities in education.

The report warned that a “wide gulf” in educational opportunity separating rich and poor countries seriously threatens global efforts aimed at achieving the internationally agreed target of universal primary education by 2015.

A combination of political indifference, weak domestic policies and the failure of aid donors to act on commitments are to blame for the failure developing countries are facing in educating their young, according to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Education for All Global Monitoring Report.

The report noted that one in three children in developing countries, or around 193 million in total, reaches primary school age with impaired brain development and educational prospects due to malnutrition.

Some 75 million children, including almost one-third of sub-Saharan children of primary school age, are not in school, compared to over a third of children in rich countries completing university, the report said.

Children in the poorest 20 per cent of countries, such as Ethiopia, Mali and Niger, are three times less likely to be in primary school as children from the wealthiest 20 per cent. In Peru and the Philippines, children in the poorest 20 per cent receive five years less education than children from the wealthiest families.

“When financial systems fail, the consequences are highly visible and governments act. When education systems fail the consequences are less visible, but no less real,” said UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura.

“Unequal opportunities for education fuel poverty, hunger, and child mortality, and reduce prospects for economic growth. That is why governments must act with a greater sense of urgency,” Mr. Matsuura added.

Wealth is not the only marker for disadvantage. Girls remain neglected and discrimination based on language, race, ethnicity and rural-urban differences are deeply entrenched, the study said.

“The circumstances into which children are born, their gender, the wealth of their parents, their language and the colour of their skin should not define their educational opportunities,” the authors of the document stated.

The report concludes that the world is not on target to achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of universal primary education by 2015, although it documented some progress in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia. Tanzania and Ethiopia have both reduced their numbers of children out of school by over three million and in Bangladesh as many girls as boys are now reaching secondary school.

Despite these gains, UNESCO says that at least 29 million children will still be out of school in 2015, and that this figure does not include conflict-affected countries such as Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Nigeria alone is projected to have 7.6 million children out of school in 2015 and Pakistan another 3.7 million.

“Both [these countries] suffer from weak governance and high levels of inequity in finance and provision,” the report noted.

The UNESCO report stressed that addressing these deficits will require wide-ranging reforms and increased investments as school systems in many countries are chronically under-financed and under-resourced. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, 3.8 million teachers will have to be recruited by 2015 if universal primary education is to be achieved.

“If the world’s governments are serious about Education for All, they must get more serious about tackling inequality,” said Mr. Matsuura.

The report identifies a range of policies to remedy extreme inequality, which include the removal of school fees for basic education, increased public investment and incentives for girls while warning against decentralization, which often widens inequalities by reinforcing financing gaps between rich and poor regions.

The international donor community has failed to deliver on the commitments it made in 2005 to increase aid by $50 billion with a current shortfall of $30 billion. The report estimated that the aid financing gap for achieving basic education by 2015 is around $7 billion annually.

“These large aid deficits are holding back progress,” the report said.

ENDS

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