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Is the world walking away from universal education?

UNICEF Says Nations Must Make “A More Credible” Effort Toward 2005 Goal of Gender Parity in Schools

GENEVA/NEW YORK, 6 November 2003 – Reacting to a global monitoring report that shows most countries are not on track to meet a 2005 goal for gender parity in education, UNICEF said today that it was not too late for governments to launch “credible efforts” to get more girls into school. 

“Right now we have to ask ourselves whether the world is walking away from girls, walking away from the goals it has set for itself,” said Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF.  “Based on this report, it appears that the first of our education objectives is being ignored.”

The Education For All monitoring report, released today, suggests that some 70 nations will fall short of the goal of gender parity in school enrolment by the end of 2005 – and will therefore have a hard time reaching the goal of education for all children by 2015.

“This is no time to simply acquiesce to our failures and slack off,” Bellamy said.  “Like a student who must repeat a grade, countries that are not making it have to hit the books and work harder.  Effort counts, and at the moment we’re not seeing nearly enough.” 

A ‘Positive Emergency’

Bellamy called on countries to respond to the situation in a “positive emergency” mode, meaning that efforts to accelerate progress should be immediate, bold, and targeted to address urgent needs.

“The 2005 goal is a target, not a deadline,” she said. “The important thing is to get moving toward that target, and to do so with a sense of purpose.  Schools need to be more welcoming places for boys and girls alike.”

Being deprived of schooling is catastrophic for any child, but for girls the ramifications are especially difficult to reverse.  Girls who are left out of school are vulnerable to violence, exploitation, trafficking, and poverty. They are more likely to die while giving birth, and are at greater risk of disease, especially HIV.  Once a girl is swept away from education, it is unlikely she will ever get a chance to return.

Why Girls, Why Now

UNICEF’s focus on getting all girls into school and making sure they complete a quality basic education is a strategic choice.  It is based on a belief that bringing down the barriers that keep girls out of school (entrenched traditions, violence, poor sanitary facilities, among other things) will make schools more welcoming for all children, and help improve the quality of life in their communities.  This is essential to achieving the goal of education for all by 2015.

UNICEF has staked its own reputation on getting countries to take the 2005 goal of gender parity seriously.  It has entered into a partnership with 25 governments to help them strive toward the goal.  The 25 countries were selected based on the severity of the challenges they face in ensuring that as many girls as boys get a quality basic education as a matter of individual right. UNICEF is leading a group of partners under the U.N. Girls' Education Initiative to help these 25 countries and many others, in their efforts to fulfill the right of all girls to education.

The 25 countries were selected based on low rates of enrolment for girls (less than 70%), large numbers of children out of school (more than a million), or notable gender gaps. 

Among the practical measures that have worked in successful  countries are abolishing school fees and other charges, locating schools closer to homes, providing school meals, recruiting more female teachers, implementing a code of ethics for teachers, and supplying safe water and separate toilet facilities.

“These kinds of improvements are only possible when national leaders make a credible commitment, and demonstrate it by investing in the kind of schools that attract and retain all girls and boys,” Bellamy said.  “We know it can work.  It’s just a matter of concentrating on the problem and getting a little help from friends.”


Coming Soon

UNICEF’s annual flagship report, The State of the World’s Children, will be launched December 11 in Geneva and Cairo. 

Building upon the outcomes of the EFA conference, the report will present the case that human development efforts need a more people-focused approach, especially with regard to girls and women.  It analyzes how the process of getting more girls into school would act as a booster rocket for broader development success.


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For further information, please contact:

Allison Hickling, UNICEF New York,
+1 212 326 7224 ahickling@unicef.org

Alfred Ironside, UNICEF New York,
+ 212 326 7261 aironside@unicef.org


 


 

 

 

Coming soon

UNICEF’s annual flagship report, The State of the World’s Children, will be launched December 11 in Geneva and Cairo. 

Building upon the outcomes of the EFA conference, the report will present the case that human development efforts need a more people-focused approach, especially with regard to girls and women.  It analyzes how the process of getting more girls into school would act as a booster rocket for broader development success.

The State of the World's Children 2004

Girls' education

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