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Education key to achieving Millennium Development Goals

Children clap during a morning assembly at a UNICEF-supported child-friendly school in Mbabane, Swaziland.

NEW YORK, USA, 21 September 2010 – With 69 million children still not enrolled in school, and only five years remaining until the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG) deadline, the State of Qatar, Save the Children, UNESCO and UNICEF are co-hosting a high-level round table luncheon on 22 September in New York. The topic is ‘The Central Role of Education in the Millennium Development Goals’ and the importance of placing education, particularly for the most marginalized, higher on the global agenda.

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Attending the event is President of the Global Campaign for Education Mr. Kailash Satyarthi, who earlier joined Dr. David Gartner – speaking in his capacity as a non-resident fellow at the Brookings Institution – for a special podcast discussion moderated by Amy Costello, on the steps needed to ensure that Education for All is achieved by 2015.

‘Gap in political will’

Dr. Gartner said that achieving Universal Primary Education (MDG 2) is both a financial problem and a logistical problem, as “both are elements of a gap in political will.”

“At this stage,” Dr. Gartner continued, “The financial piece is central because we’ve seen rapid progress in many of the middle-income countries and rapidly developing countries. But we’ve seen much less progress in some of the lowest income countries, in places like sub-Saharan Africa where donor resources are going to be an important part of the equation if we’re going to have a chance to achieve universal primary education.”

Mr. Satyarthi agreed, highlighting that “none of the MDGs could be achieved without education for all.”

He also stressed that the elimination of child labour is crucial to achieving this goal. 

© UNICEF/NYHQ2009-1909/Pirozzi
Children dance at a school AIDS club meeting in Lilongwe, Malawi. According to experts, education plays a crucial role in achieving all MDGs, including reducing the spread of HIV and AIDS.

Stepping up for education

Mr. Satyarthi said that the responsibility for getting children into school and fulfilling the goal of Education For All is ultimately “the responsibility of the donor countries, primarily because they have been promising time and again and they have not done it.”

Dr. Gartner agreed and spoke of his hope for global leaders meeting in New York this week at the United Nations MDG summit.

“Without achieving universal education we are not going to achieve the other Millennium Development Goals,” he said. “We’re not going to reduce child hunger, because education... is key to reducing child hunger in terms of educating mothers. We’re not going to reduce child mortality, as giving mothers just five years of education ... can lead to a reduction in child mortality of 40 per cent."

Up to 50 per cent of the varying rates between different countries' maternal mortality could be explained by a lack of education, added Dr. Gartner. "It’s going to stop us from defeating AIDS and preventing the spread of AIDS," he said.

“When it comes to all of the Millennium Development Goals, education is central,” Mr. Gartner continued. “It’s for that reason that I hope that in the coming week major world leaders will step up to the plate in terms of the resources and the political will that are needed to achieve universal education.”


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