UNICEF supports quality education in Togo
UNICEF hands over 180,100 primary school text books in time for the new school year
Lome, Togo, 11 September 2009 – The situation for children and teachers returning to school after the long holiday in Togo may be a little less challenging this year.
Many children starting primary school in primary year one and their friends going into primary years two and three would previously have had a one in eight chance of having a mathematics text book and one in five chance of accessing a reading book.
As 34,000 children will start school on the 21st of September the primary school population is estimated to be between 12 and 14 percent higher than in 2007. This is largely due to the abolition of primary school fees at the beginning of the 2008/2009 academic year. School fee abolition, a brave political decision in a country as poor as Togo, has brought with it a range of problems. As the number of children has increased the problems have included the need for more teacher, more classrooms, more latrines and water sources, more tables and chairs and of course more books.
After fifteen years of crisis and donor sanctions the provision of basic social services to children leaves much to be desired in the country. With national poverty standing at 61.7% of the population this figure reaches 91% in the poorest region of the country. 49.5%, just short of half the population, is under 18 and education is a vital, if not the most vital, development tool for the country. In the last few years a lot of progress has been made in Togo’s education sector; a lot more has yet to be made.
"We are really proud to have contributed to reducing the stress that those children and teachers who will be lucky enough to benefit from the distribution of the books donated today will feel", said Una McCauley, UNICEF Representative in Togo. "We would love to be able to assist the government to ensure that one in two children and every teacher throughout the country and through the entire primary cycle could access books. With our government and development partners we will continue to work towards the goal of quality primary education for every girl and boy in the country".
Handing over the books, funded by generous contributions from the Government of the Netherlands, Japan and Denmark, UNICEF Representative underlined the organization’s commitment to working with the government and development partners towards quality education for each and every Togolese girl and boy. The donation of 90,050 mathematics books and 90,050 reading books will reduce the number of children in years 1, 2 and 3 who are able to access school books to one in three in rural areas of three regions of the country.
Teachers, many of whom have had no formal training, will also benefit from 2,290 teaching guides which accompany the text books.
"It is exciting to think that in one week’s time many children who would have depended entirely on teachers working from blackboards with chalk will hold a school book in their hand for the first time", explained Ms McCauley.
For the Minister of Education in Togo, this gesture shows the commitment of UNICEF to quality basic education. This is also illustrated by "last year’s visit by UNICEF's Executive Director and the recent launching of school construction and rehabilitation projects, which focused on the country three poorest regions; Savanes, Kara and Maritime’.
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