|Seated at his desk, a boy holds up a wooden slate with numbers written.|
By Kun Li
NEW YORK, 7 September 2005 – After 12 years of civil war, Burundi now has a new democratic government, and the reconstruction process is gathering momentum. As part of his programme, President Pierre Nkurunziza has reaffirmed his pledge to provide free primary education for all the country’s children.
Responding to the announcement, UNICEF Representative in Burundi Catherine Mbengue said: “This is an incredible opportunity for Burundi to be engaged in meeting the Millennium Development Goals, to meet the objective of universal primary education for all children.
“We applaud the decision made by President Nkurunziza. He has put the children’s rights of education on the agenda of his government.”
|A girl holds a slate provided by UNICEF above her head in a school in the village of Rubenga.|
Mr. Nkurunziza’s inauguration on 26 August was the climax of a long African regional peace process, signalling an end to the lengthy civil war in which more than 300,000 people were killed.
The pledge of free primary education was delivered during Mr. Nkurunziza’s inaugural speech, and takes effect immediately.
The net primary school enrolment ratio for Burundian children is estimated at 59 per cent for boys, but only 48 per cent for girls (source: SOWC).
Ms. Mbengue said that, given the challenges of conflict recovery, HIV/AIDS and poverty that face Burundi, school fees were a significant barrier keeping children out of school. “With the new policy, schools are open for them. We also see this as a good opportunity to make the schools into safe havens for the children.”
UNICEF will work with partners to mobilize resources from the international community and support the Government in implementing the policy of free primary education for every child.