15 June 2008 - Official remarks at the launch of the 2008 school enrolment campaign
Your Excellency the First Lady, your Excellency the Minister, Federal Ministry of General Education, Mr Hamid Mohamed Ibrahim, the Undersecretary Federal Ministry of General Education, Dr Al Mutassim Abdel Rahim, distinguished representatives of the Government of National Unity, colleagues and partners from the Federal Ministry of General Education and other Ministries, UN agencies and non-governmental organizations, ladies and gentlemen.
UNICEF is pleased to be invited to make a statement at the launch of the enrolment campaign for 2008. This launch is very timely considering the high degree of urgency with which we need to enroll every child and keep them in school. In 2007, 6.7 million primary school-age children attended classes in the northern states of Sudan; approximately 67 per cent of the primary school age population. This compares to 3.9 million in 2004/2005 academic year (FMOGE statistics report 2004/2005).
However, we should be concerned about the 3 million children and young people who remain excluded from enjoying their right to quality primary and secondary education, largely due to inability to meet the cost of education. We should also be concerned about the persistent gender and geographic disparities between and within states and localities.
UNICEF is pleased to be supporting the Federal and State Ministries of Education in the development of high impact sub-sector initiatives to accelerate the attainment of universal basic education by 2015. Key among these actions are the development of the Girls’ Education Strategic Plan, the development of the Accelerated Learning programme for children out of school and the Nomadic Education scale up strategy. Between these three initiatives, the challenges faced by children out of school, especially girls, nomads and conflict affected children will be addressed.
We would particularly like to call the attention of the Government of National Unity once again to increase its investments in the education and development of its children. Without the earmarking of these investments, it will not be possible to meet the direct costs of education of vulnerable children. Parents and communities are already meeting more than 70% of the non-salary costs of schooling. It is time that the public sector eases this heavy burden on households considering the low income status of the majority of Sudanese people.
Since 2004, UNICEF has regularly invested up to US$ 12 million per year in the northern states of Sudan alone. This investment has resulted in 900,000 more children enrolling in school – that’s the equivalent of just US$ 40 per child in crude terms. The dividend paid on such an investment is itself beyond value. In 2008 however, UNICEF’s budget for education has so far reached USD17 million. Considering the high unmet demand for educational assistance, this amount constitutes a drop in the ocean, if it is not complemented by substantial increases in public spending in education.
We must improve opportunities for children’s education in Sudan, especially those who have never enrolled or have dropped out of school. Both inclusion and quality of education are directly linked to government spending on education and external financial resources available to the sector. A recent report from the Federal Ministry of General Education (Education for All Mid-term Report, July 2007) suggests that government expenditure on education in the northern states of Sudan accounts for just 0.7 per cent of GDP, far below the average 5 per cent spent in other sub-Saharan African countries. To bring Sudan in line with other countries in this region, government expenditure needs to be increased to at least 5% of GDP. Sudan needs to prioritize education to achieve its recovery and development goals.
The 2006 SHHS survey, the 2007 Household Health Survey correlated mothers’ education with several indicators related to maternal and child health. The survey found significant improvements if the mother had at least primary education and additional improvement if she had secondary education. In order to reduce maternal and child health indicators, we must substantially increase investments in education and keep girls in school. We must also ensure that what children learn in terms of knowledge and life skills and is relevant for improved quality of life.
UNICEF wishes to re-iterate its commitment to support the GONU to mobilize broad-based partnerships and coordinate our efforts with all other partners to ensure that children are at the centre of the recovery and development agenda for Sudan.