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US, Japan Stingiest Givers for Education

Alison Raphael

Washington, DC - Eight years ago the world's wealthiest countries promised to provide the funding needed to ensure that all children worldwide can attend school. But now, halfway to the global 2015 deadline for universal primary education, developed countries are failing to come up with the aid.

This was the conclusion reached at the close of a high-level meeting1219 06 in Dakar, Senegal, on funding for globally agreed goals for education articulated at the 2000 "Education for All" meeting and reflected in the Millennium Development Goals.

The failure is laid out country-by-country in an innovative global "report card" on progress in education released Dec. 11 by a coalition of NGOs, the Global Campaign for Education.

By 2015, all children are supposed to have access to complete, free, compulsory, quality primary education, and gender disparities in education should be completely eliminated.

Now, mid-way to the 2015 deadline, there appears to be little hope of success.

At the meeting in Dakar, developed countries refused to set a target for spending on global education, even though developing countries agreed to devote 10 per cent of their national budgets to the sector.

Nicholas Burnett, director of the 2008 Education for All Global Monitoring Report, called the outcome of the Dakar meeting "a major disappointment." Burnett's group said an additional $11 billion is needed to reach global education goals by 2015.

UNESCO chief Koichiiro Matsuura agreed, remarking: "I cannot be very optimistic."

Meanwhile, the Global Campaign for Education (GCE) charged that at current rates of progress, global goals "will not be realized by 2115, let alone in the next seven-and-a-half years."

The GCE's report card, entitled "No Excuses," ranks every country with a grade from A to F for its efforts in education, including donor nations. It points to the U.S. and Japan as two of the stingiest givers. Norway and the Netherlands are the most generous.

Some developing countries have made significant progress toward improving access to education, especially those that have abolished all fees for primary school. Ghana, for example, abolished school fees in September 2005, and has seen a large influx of new students, including girls.

But Ghana, Kenya and a handful of other countries that took this bold step then found that school facilities were insufficient for the new crowds, and many more teachers were needed to meet demand while still providing quality education.

For the most part, countries need help from abroad to finance the many changes required by the goals of universal primary education and education for all. Not only new classrooms and more teachers, but sometimes curriculum reform and special outreach efforts to parents to allow their girl children to attend school are needed.

In poor countries, children not in school face special dangers. In addition to not being prepared to earn an income as adults, these children are often used as low-paid laborers in dangerous occupations and are vulnerable to trafficking and other forms of sexual exploitation.

"Leaders must stop failing the world's children," said the GCE, arguing that now is the time for renewed commitment by rich and poor nations alike to ensuring that the goals agreed to in 2000 can be achieved by 2015.

© 2007 One World

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