Monday, September 20, 2010

Education Access Declines Around the World

Education Access Declines Around the World

Nearly 70 million children around the world are not getting an education despite much progress in the past 10 years, and Haiti and Somalia are the two worst countries in which to be a school-age child, a report released on Monday said.

The global financial crisis has forced poor countries to cut their education budgets by $4.6 billion a year at a time when intensified efforts are needed to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goal of ensuring a primary school education for every child in the world by 2015, it says.

The report lists 10 countries at the bottom of the education list; all but Haiti are in Africa. In addition to Somalia, the others are Eritrea, Comoros, Ethiopia, Chad, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Liberia.

It based the rankings on access to basic education, teacher-student ratios and educational provisions for girls.

Even Kenya, considered successful compared to its East African neighbours, had to delay free education to 9.7 million children over the past year due to budgetary constraints, the report said.

The report was produced by Education International, Plan International, Oxfam, Save the Children and VSO.

"Education is now on the brink," Kailash Satyarthi, president of the Global Campaign for Education which issued the report, told an event in New York on the sidelines of a UN summit to promote achievement of the goal.

"Sixty-nine million children - more than all the primary school-going children in the United States and Europe - will not be going to school this morning," Satyarthi said. "Just $16 billion per year could pay for every child to go to school."

The report's Donor Report Card gives two countries "A," the Netherlands and Norway, and four "B," Denmark, Ireland, Sweden, and Britain. The US, in 16th place, received a "D" along with France, Germany, New Zealand and others, while Australia, in 18th place, rated an "F", as did Greece at the bottom of the list in 22nd place.

Queen Rania of Jordan, a co-founder of the Global Campaign, said summit after summit has failed to persuade leaders to put resources into education.

"Education doesn't just beat poverty," Rania said. "It beats disease. It beats inequality, and for girls education is nothing less than a lifesaver, from stigmatism, insecurity and violence."

World Bank managing director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala announced its arm that gives grants and soft credits to the world's 79 poorest countries is pledging an additional $750 million over the next five years, a 40 per cent increase in the bank's basic education spending over the past five years directed at the poorest countries.

The funds will be targeted toward countries that are "off-track" to meet the education goal by 2015, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, she said.

"We know what works so we have absolutely no excuses to scale things up, and that's what the World Bank is trying to do," Okonjo-Iweala said.

The UN says the number of children not in school has fallen from 106 million in 1999 to 69 million in 2008, which Satyarthi called "huge progress".

Sub-Saharan Africa has seen its classrooms fill over the past decade, though the continent still accounts for almost half the total of unenrolled children. In 1999, 58 per cent of African children were enrolled in primary school. By 2008 the figure was 76 percent.

The UN children's agency UNICEF said its research shows spending $1 million helping children age 5 and younger in the most remote and disadvantaged areas would prevent 60 per cent more deaths than the current approach, what it called "a stunningly higher return on investment".

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