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Free education becomes legally compulsory in Lesotho

UNICEF hails the Government of Lesotho’s landmark enactment of the Education Act 2010

MASERU / LESOTHO, 11 May 2010– In a milestone effort to advance progress towards universal primary education, the Government of Lesotho recently enacted the Education Act 2010, legalising the right to free and compulsory education. 

Free primary education (FPE) was introduced in the year 2000 as a major strategy towards achieving the Education for All (EFA) goals. This initially led to rapid increase in the net enrollment rate, which currently stands at 82% of primary school aged children (80% boys; 84% girls).

Lesotho’s prospects of achieving the Millennium Development Goals of universal primary education (MDG2) and eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education (MDG3) are promising.

“This law will give a major boost to education; it is a critical step forward in reaching the remaining 18% of the most vulnerable children who are still out of school. The next phase of implementation is the most decisive stage to ensure the fundamental right to free and compulsory education is fully realized” said Dr. Ahmed Magan, UNICEF Lesotho Representative.

The Act is the outcome of a widely consultative process which aimed at reviewing the Education Act of 1995. While legislating for free and compulsory primary education, MOET was driven by the need to improve the quality of education, as well as making it more responsive to the impact of HIV, AIDS and poverty.

Lesotho has one of the highest proportions of orphans in the world at 12% of the population and the third highest prevalence of HIV, with young generations being the most affected and at risk. “We need to ensure that children are fully equipped with the means to make healthy and informed decisions that will improve the quality of their lives, and school plays a major role to achieve this” says Dr. Magan.

Making sure all children are in school is an important first step, but it does not necessarily mean they are being educated. “Continued investment in the quality of education is critical and promoting proper financing for quality education, even during times of economic turmoil, is a means of promoting sustainable development of individuals and societies” says Dr. Magan.

The MOET and partners such as UNICEF are working to ensure that education remains a key development priority and to support national policies that provide access to school for all children in a safe and gender-sensitive environment. “Lesotho cares about education. The Government is spending more on public education as a percentage of GNP than almost every other African country and is making sure girls and boys are being educated in equal numbers. Education is crucial to ensure human capital development.” says Dr. Magan.

The entering into force of the Education Act 2010, making free primary education compulsory, is a historic landmark for the children of Lesotho and for the country as a whole. Currently UNICEF and other partners are supporting the development of school management regulations that will translate the Act into implementable systems and structures.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org

For more information, please contact:

Clelia Barbadoro, UNICEF Lesotho , Tel +266-58882872 | +266 22 315801, Email: cbarbadoro@unicef.org




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