|Two girls choose crayons from a large bowl in a kindergarten class at St. Teresa Catholic School in the Mamba Point neighbourhood of Liberia’s capital, Monrovia.|
By Gabrielle Galanek
NEW YORK, USA, 28 October 2008 – High-level talks about progress towards the Millennium Development Goals took place last month during the United Nations General Assembly. Special attention was paid to commitments and progress in some of the poorest African nations, particularly in the area of education.
“We have made a lot of progress, but the problem is much more complex than just access,” said Dr. Codou Diaw, Executive Director of the Forum for African Women Educationalists, citing low attendance rates in secondary schools across Africa. “We need to pay attention to both access and what makes learning happen.”
German philanthropist and co-founder of the ‘Schools for Africa’ campaign Peter Kramer remarked that education is also a critical issue for the private sector.
“The second Millennium Development Goal [on universal primary education] is the most important and most influential, and it costs just 15 billion US dollars to bring each child in the world to school. This is less than 1.5 per cent of what all governments are spending for military purposes each year,” said Mr. Kramer.
The international community’s effort to bring education to all children is “not a pleasure, it is a duty,” he added.
Rebuilding schools and societies
“Many countries around the world have made remarkable progress, both in terms of eliminating poverty and getting more children into school and improving health outcomes,” said Desmond Bermingham, who heads the ‘Education for All’ Fast Track Initiative (FTI), a global partnership between developing countries and donors to accelerate progress towards the goal of universal primary education.
“But there are significant numbers of countries, often affected by war or other kinds of emergencies, which – unless we do something different for them – are not going to stand a chance of reaching the MDGs,” Mr. Bermingham noted.
Major donors to education initiatives are addressing this problem. For example, the ‘Back on Track’ initiative, partially funded by the Dutch Government, is a multi-national campaign designed to protect children’s right to education in emergencies. Other programmes, such as FTI, are also based on an awareness that education in emergency and post-emergency situations is an area of critical need.
“The challenge is helping those countries rebuild after conflict and providing them with the kind of support they need, quickly and effectively,” said Mr. Bermingham.
Discussion on financing
In the context of civil war, poverty and poor health conditions, how are donors helping the poorest nations in Africa fight poverty through education? How is the international community helping to support and transform these education systems? What are the particular obstacles that female students face?
Click here (Real player) to listen to a UNICEF Radio podcast discussion on financing education in emergencies, featuring these guests:
Desmond Bermingham, Head of the ‘Education for All’ Fast Track Initiative Secretariat; Dr. Codou Diaw, Executive Director of the Forum for African Women Educationalists; and Peter Kramer, Chairman of the Hamburg Society for the promotion of Democracy and International Law, and co-founder of the ‘Schools for Africa’ campaign.
Podcast #10: Financing education in emergencies. Moderator Amy Costello hosts a discussion with Desmond Bermingham, Dr. Codou Diaw and Peter Kramer.
'Beyond School Books'
The following stories are part of the 'Beyond School Books' series focusing on education during emergencies.
Segment #75: UN Special Adviser says gender equality and girls' education critical in post-2015 goals
Segment #74: Young people provide strategic advice on education issues
Segment #73: Girls advocate for girls' education and gender equality