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Podcast - Beyond Access: Quality Education for Life

©UNICEF/CARA2009-00137/Ronald de Hommel
Two girls in a school in Beogombo, north-western Central African Republic. Similarly to Benin, access to basic education in CAR is low, with strong gender and geographical disparities and poor quality.

By Pi James

NEW YORK, USA, 6 May 2010 - The Millennium Development Goals call for universal access to education by 2015; however, simply getting children into school may not be enough to improve life opportunities for boys and girls and reduce the gender gap.  Further, girls who receive quality, basic education are better prepared to protect themselves against violence, abuse, exploitation and trafficking, and are less vulnerable to disease, including HIV and AIDS.

 AUDIO: Listen now

To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI), podcast moderator Amy Costello spoke with Simone De Comarmond, Chairperson of the Forum for African Women Educationalists and Pamela Hogan, Executive Producer of the PBS WIDE ANGLE Special series, Time For School, about providing quality education for children across the globe.

“Develop into a full round person”

In the podcast discussion, Ms. de Comarmond says that quality education means that “once a child has got access to education the child can develop into a full round person.”

Ms. Hogan notes that over the course of the Time For School series, a PBS 12-year documentary project that follows seven school children in seven countries, the focus changed from getting children into school to the quality of education received and how to ensure children stay in school.

Ms. Hogan describes the story of Nanavi in Benin, where there is a large gender gap in education, to highlight the immense challenges girls face just to attend school.

Nanavi “has to walk two hours each way to the nearest middle school… First of all it’s a long walk, she doesn’t get much to eat at home, [and] she has to choose every day to spend the 50 cents that her mother can give her to make photocopies, there’s no books, or to eat lunch…  Second of all it’s a little dangerous for girls.”

 “A quality education for the kids in our show… [is] an education which allows them to not only become literate but to allow them to develop [to] their full potential and to get a job… [and] to make sure that their kids get educated so that generation by generation there’s improvement in economic levels and quality of life,” she says.

Political will

Ms. de Comarmond argues that quality education all comes down to national governments and international commitments and support.
“I sincerely believe it starts with the political will and having proper policies in place… It’s an issue that you have to work [at] and it takes time to sensitize governments,” Ms. de Comarmond says.

“Today we still have 35 million girls in Africa who are not yet able to go to school. So we still have a major challenge, but at the end of the day to me it’s the political will.”

The United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) is a partnership dedicated to narrowing the gender gap in education and aims to ensure that all children – girls and boys – have equal access to quality education.  To mark its 10th anniversary, UNGEI is holding a global conference, –“Engendering Empowerment: Education and Equality”, in Dakar, Senegal, from 17-20 May. This conference will provide a platform for the global community to reaffirm that girls’ education is a development imperative, and to recommit to securing Education for All by 2015.



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Moderator Amy Costello and guests discuss how, simply getting children into school may not be enough to improve life opportunities for boys and girls and reduce the gender gap.

AUDIO: Listen now


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The E4 Engendering Empowerment: Education and Equality conferences, scheduled to take place between 12th April – 20th May 2010,  speak to the goal of strengthening and expanding partnerships for girls’ education around the most pressing obstacles many girls face in pursuit of education. An online e-conference will be held from 12th April – 14th May, followed by a face-to-face conference on 17th-20th May in Dakar, Senegal.

The e-conference is now underway.
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