|© UNICEF/Christian Mejia/2004|
|Children in Cañar Province are now being educated.|
By Christian Mejia
NEW YORK, 1 December 2004 -- UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy has praised the Ecuadorian government for its commitment to get more children to attend school.
With the help of UNICEF, Ecuador has begun an ambitious programme to raise its literacy rate. For each of the last four years the programme has provided 35,000 dollars per year to encourage national resources to work for children’s education. The money spent goes to school material, education resources and training.
Fighting illiteracy in Ecuador is an enormous challenge. Children represent 40 per cent of the country’s population and nearly 70 per cent of those under the age of 17 live in poverty, with little or no access to schools. In addition it’s estimated that 430,000 children are forced to work physically difficult jobs in mines and on fruit and flower farms. School enrolment is low, especially amongst the indigenous and Afro-Ecuadorians of whom only 39 per cent complete primary school.
Changing social attitudes towards child labour is also an important aspect of the programme.
However, four years into the programme, UNICEF Education Officer Juan Pablo Bustamente says the commitment of the Ecuadorian people and of UNICEF is paying off.
“Four years ago, eight out of twenty children attended school, now thirteen out of every twenty children is being educated,” Mr Bustamente said. Rural areas especially are benefiting. In the southern province of Cañar, 99 percent of children are now in school.
“Education for all will change Ecuador,” Mr Bustamente said.