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Donor meeting reviews the work of UNICEF on Girls’ Education and the way forward

©UNICEF Chad/2006/Matthews
Girls study at one of the 7 schools set up by UNICEF at the Bredjing camp for Sudanese refugees in eastern Chad. UNICEF plays a key role in sector-wide processes in education for most countries in every region.

NEW YORK, NY, USA, 19 September 2006 - On 11 September 2006, donors for girls’ education met in New York to review achievements and challenges in girls’ education during UNICEF’s medium-term strategic plan (MTSP) for 2002-2005. The focus of the meeting was a review of lessons learned, challenges, opportunities, trends and progress made for achieving the MDGs and EFA goals during the period 2002-2005. The meeting also emphasized UNICEF’s commitment to working in partnerships to advance girls’ education.  That is why time was spent on strategies that have been put in place to strengthen partnerships around girls’ education, particularly the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI), and progress on UNICEF’s Education Strategy.

A major lesson learned from the girls’ education programme was that mainstreaming and scaling up gender and girls’ education is a difficult process both within and outside of UNICEF. Causality analysis informs us that the difficulties revolve around sociocultural, economic and political barriers contributing to the failure to meet the 2005 MDG goal of gender parity. Other major key lessons learned by UNICEF during the previous plan included:

  • Focus on access to universal primary education neglected quality and learning achievement.
  • It is difficult to attract and sustain interest in chronic emergency situations. However, UNICEF learned to respond faster and position education as an important element in bringing a sense of normalcy after an emergency. 
  • In countries UNICEF is moving from single-factor to systemic, packaged interventions, where presenting evidence on the impact, such as the results of a demonstration, are taken upstream.
  • Scaling up and mainstreaming need to go hand in hand to ensure institutionalization and sustainability.
  • Building partnerships with other development partners has been a difficult process, but country offices were encouraged to continue to promote partnerships through mechanisms like education sector plans and UNGEI. 
  • There is increased recognition that capacity-building incorporates capacity cultivation. Highlighting the importance of accompanying countries throughout the development process, including engaging with them in day-to-day problem solving, is vital.
  • Thematic funds have proved to be a good mechanism for country offices to shift from project support in the field to a more systemic, general budget support.
  • Supply, logistics and communications should be recognized as an integral part of UNICEF’s education programme.


To address the issue of access versus quality, there was agreement that there is significant potential in the use of the child-friendly school (CFS) model as a means of transforming quality in education. The rapid growth of commitment to this model has prompted the development of a CFS technical manual and training package (including an e-learning package). This will contribute to the development of the capacities of education policymakers, planners and practitioners.  The capacity-building will also strengthen education systems, schools and learning spaces as places in which child-friendly learning takes place. The challenge now is to show that the model is cost-efficient, and that it is not a product but a path that can be adapted to country needs.

In an effort to move increasingly to systemic interventions, UNICEF will continue its work on improved capacity to work within the sector-wide approach (SWAps). An evaluation of the role of UNICEF in the SWAps process in Eastern and Southern Africa was carried out in 2005. The results of the evaluation showed the need for capacity-building in education SWAps at country level. That is why a SWAps Process Resource Pack was developed to be used for the training of UNICEF education staff and government counterparts in 2006. Similar work has been done in the East Asia/Pacific region. UNICEF now plays a key role in all sector-wide processes in education for most countries in every region, and this will continue in the next plan.

Against this background, UNICEF has been working on an education strategy paper that spells out a vision for the future up to 2015 and beyond.   The strategy highlights how UNICEF will work with partners to contribute more effectively and efficiently to achieving the MDGs and the EFA goals. UNICEF is also working with the five EFA convening agencies, to support UNESCO in developing a global action plan (GAP) for joint support to countries in their efforts to achieve the goals of Education for All. Finalization of the strategy paper has been postponed in an effort to better align it with the GAP.  It is hoped that this alignment will unite the EFA partners’ efforts in support for the MDGs and EFA goals.


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