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UN Meeting On Ensuring Right To Education

UN Meeting On Ensuring Right To Education Kicks Off In Oslo

New York, Dec 16 2008 10:10AM

A United Nations conference aimed at overcoming global inequalities in education, especially for children in the poorest nations and girls, kicked off in Norway today.

Against the backdrop of the global financial crisis, education and development ministers, leading officials for multilateral and bilateral agencies, as well as representatives from civil society have gathered in Oslo to recommend strategies for accelerating progress towards achieving by 2015 quality “education for all” – the pledge made by world leaders in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, in 1999.

“We are expecting the high-level group to galvanise support for the provision of quality education for all, especially in the poorest and marginalized,” said UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura.

The two-day forum, organized by UNESCO, is expected to tackle issues highlighted in its recent study, reporting that one in three children in developing countries –193 million in total – reaches primary school age having had their brain development and educational prospects impaired by malnutrition.

The report also found that 75 million children of primary school age are not in school, and whereas over one-third of children in rich countries complete university, a much smaller fraction in sub-Saharan Africa finish primary school and only five per cent attend university.

UNESCO found that educational disparities mirror global economic inequalities, with children the poorest 20 per cent of countries, such as Ethiopia, Mali and Niger, three times less likely to be in primary school as children in the wealthiest 20 per cent.

Girls are also neglected in much of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, which have much lower female enrolments in their schools than boys, along with deeply entrenched biases based on language, race, ethnicity and urban-rural differences.

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


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