Basic education and gender equality

Many countries fail to meet goals for girls’ education

© UNICEF/HQ93-0090/ Roger Lemoyne
A girl rests on her desk during class in Xunyi county kindergarten, Shaanxi province, China.

NEW YORK, USA, 25 November 2005 – The world has failed in an important step towards achieving educational equality for girls this year; forty-six countries will not meet international goals for gender parity in schools set for 2005.

“We have not kept our promise for children. Our failure to meet these goals needs to be addressed very vigorously,” said Dr. Cream Wright, UNICEF Head of Education.

The majority of the nearly 115 million children that remain out of school are girls. The failure this year jeopardizes all of the Millennium Development Goals set for 2015.

But a new UNICEF report has proposed critical steps to help the countries lagging behind.

The report, Gender Achievements and Progress in Education (GAP), will be presented at the global advisory committee of the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) in Beijing on November 26, 2005.

© UNICEF/HQ04-0635/ Giacomo Pirozzi
Primary school girls attend Koranic school in Djibouti.

“Gender equality in education is not some fanciful, unrealistic proposition,” said Dr. Rima Salah, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director. “This was and is an achievable goal. We know this from the fact that so many countries have made such great strides in closing the gap.”

The report examines why the deadline was missed – poverty, discrimination, poor government policies and disease are among the chief culprits – and discusses radical ways to help the countries that did not make the grade. The proposals will focus on West and Central Africa, Eastern and Southern Africa and South Asia, all of which need to achieve higher than average rates of enrolment if they are to meet the 2015 goals.

It is recommended that countries remove the financial barriers to education, abolishing school fees and providing scholarships. And it’s suggested that poorer families be given financial incentives for children to attend school. It is proposed that countries with low enrolment be treated as ‘emergency’ cases, receiving the same quick response in funding and technical expertise that they would receive during a natural disaster.

The report stresses that these solutions require a great deal of political will, and not just on the part of the countries that are failing.

“Each country has its policies, but countries are supported by the international community, so there’s a solution that says ‘we all succeed or we all fail’,” said Dr. Wright.





25 November 2005:
UNICEF New York correspondent Chris Niles reports on UNICEF’s proposals to meet the educational goals for all girls.

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