CAIRO: Education gives hope, said Saidi Kibeya, Burundi s education minister at the Sixth High Level Group Meeting on Education For All conference last week.
The international conference, opened by the Director-General of Unesco, Koïchiro Matsuura, and hosting education ministers, high-level officials, and NGOs from nearly 40 countries aims to give hope through four key points: early childhood care and education (ECCE), HIV/AIDS education, resource mobilization, and the Global Action Plan – which provides the framework for multilateral cooperation.
The communiqué produced at the conclusion of the conference in part praised some gains in the status of education in international meetings and national budgets.
From 1999 to 2004, for example, the number of children enrolled in primary schools increased by 37 million, though the report does not state the increase in enrollment accounting for population increase.
More countries have abolished school fees as well, a point Minister of Education Yousry El-Gamal stressed as critical: fees shouldn t be an obstacle to depriving any child from education.
El-Gamal further praised some of Egypt s specific achievements. He called the new Mubarak City an outstanding bastion for education and teacher training, which offers a center for remote teacher training.
He also mentioned the Avicenna initiative, which is an exchange of experience and knowledge between 15 participating countries. Microsoft has also introduced a training program for those in charge emphasizing creativity.
Networks mean we can benefit from techniques in other parts of the world, said El-Gamal.
Kibeya stressed that teachers are at the front lines, and capping salaries run counter to education.
Senior Education Specialist Salahuddin El-Shater told The Daily Star Egypt that teacher s minimum salaries were raised to LE 500 for this reason, though previous salaries were so low that they were nearly negligible. He added that an authority for Education Accreditation was to be established in Egypt to monitor both teachers and schools, and that life skills activities were to be added to curriculums to develop children s personalities and community involvement.
Panelists expressed some urgency at meeting the goals set out for 2015, which are interrelated with the more general Millennium Development Goals.
The communiqué states that increases in adult literacy rates are real but slow, with only 100 million of 781 million expected to achieve literacy by 2015 at the current rate of increase.
One in five adults, mostly women, are illiterate.
Following the 2007 Education For All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report s emphasis on the importance of ECCE and especially for disadvantaged children, the high-level officials committed to expand ECCE enrollment, increase public-private partnerships, address education holistically, and support female education and informal education.
The communiqué recommended that government budgets be pushed to 4-6% of national income, along with increases in donor contributions.
The meeting also concluded with commitments to integrate HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, as well as reducing stigma, with the education sector.
Next year s meeting in Dakar, Senegal will represent the mid-point between the launch of the EFA goals in 1999 and the target year for attainment.