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Delegates at meeting on ‘Education for All’ say urgent work is needed to achieve 2015 goal

©UNICEF video
Children representing various ethnic groups in China sing at the opening of the Fifth Meeting of the High Level Group on Education for All, held in the Great Hall of the People, Beijing, China.

BEIJING, China, 30 November 2005 - With more than 115 million children worldwide still out of school, and more than 770 million adults illiterate, delegates to the Fifth Meeting of the High Level Group on Education for All said urgent work must be done to reach the goal of universal primary education by 2015.

The 3-day meeting was attended by heads of state and ministers from countries around the world, UN officials, and representatives of non-governmental organizations. Major topics of discussion included ensuring girls and boys have equal opportunities to go to school, helping provide quality universal education, and improving literacy rates in all countries.

After an opening featuring songs from children representing various ethnic groups in China, the event’s keynote address was delivered by Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. In his remarks, he said: “Education is the torch that is passed on from generation to generation in relating to human civilization. It is a bridge leading toward sustained economic and social development, as well as a basic condition for realizing universal human development.”

© UNICEF video
Young musicians perform at the close of the Meeting.

Increased funding

“It is intolerable that 18 per cent of the world’s adults have no access to written communication and are therefore excluded from active participation in important aspects of their societies,” remarked UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura.

Delegates said that strong action is needed now to ensure that all children can get a good education, regardless of where they live. This action includes increased funding by governments and international organizations for education initiatives. Also necessary are new strategies to promote literacy, support for education for rural areas and steps to ensure gender parity in schools.

Global Task Force on Child Labour and Education

UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Rima Salah addressed a round table discussion on achieving Education For All and the elimination of child labour.

“We know that many of the estimated 186 million child labourers below the age of 15 worldwide continue to work in conditions that are damaging to their mental, physical and emotional development,” said Ms. Salah. “More than 8 million children are trapped in the worst forms of child labour.”

Ms. Salah said that globally there are 117 girls out of school for every 100 boys. “This gives us good reason to think on whether child labour is disproportionately affecting girls,” she said.

Ms. Salah closed by calling for a “a bold initiative” to act on these problems, and emphasized that the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) could play an important role in promoting more concrete action on the issue of child labour and education.

Delegates to the round table unanimously agreed to the establishment of a Global Task Force on Child Labour and Education, with ILO, UNESCO, UNICEF, the World Bank and the Global March Against Child Labour as the initial partners.

The Task Force will begin its work by collecting reliable data and reviewing best practices, including an innovative project in Brazil which provides school meals for eight million children and financial assistance to their parents. The Task Force will also help mobilize political will to eliminate child labour everywhere.



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30 November 2005:
UNICEF Correspondent Steve Nettleton reports on the Fifth Meeting of the High Level Group on Education for All, held 28-30 November, Beijing, China.

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