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The region has half of an estimated 1,3 billion of the world’s children who are out of school.

NO sub-Saharan African country managed to accomplish the six Dakar education for all commitments in line with the United Nations Millennium Development Goal (MDG) number two that sought to achieve universal primary education by 2015.

The region has half of an estimated 1,3 billion of the world’s children who are out of school.

A recently released Education For All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report officially handed over to government by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) attributes the appalling failure to lack of political will by the powers-that-be as evidenced by lack of funding in education as well as slackening global aid support.

The report warns that there is real danger that sub-Saharan countries may not be able to close the gap even by 2030.

Its analysis of projections for low and middle income countries suggests that governments will not achieve their key targets if recent trends continue.

Even the achievement of universal primary education, a core goal of Jomtein and Dakar, appears, on current evidence, well beyond reach.

It, in fact, paints such a depressing image even for universal upper secondary education.

“It will not be achieved this century. It may never be reached,” the report reads in part.

With lack of educational funding being cited as the single biggest threat to achieving EFA, the report recommends that governments need to make sound investments in providing good quality education and make teacher professionalism and motivation a top priority while carefully considering the risks involved in recruiting unqualified teachers.

It also urges governments to draw relevant curriculum content that improves learning and allows slow achievers to catch up as well as sourcing sufficient learning resources.

“Governments should mobilise more domestic resources to ensure a sustainable source of funding for the post-2015 education framework. They will need to spend at least 3,4 percent of Gross Domestic Product on pre-primary, primary and lower secondary education or 5,4 percent across all education levels,” reads the report.

At a World Education Forum held in Dakar, Senegal, in 2000, six commitments were enunciated with the aim of improving the quality of education with special emphasis on children.

Dakar was a follow up on the 1990 convention of the world’s Ministers of Education held in Jomtein, Thailand, which produced what is known today as the Jomtein Declaration that recognised education as a fundamental human right.

At Jomtein, governments were urged to pursue the education for all agenda by intensifying efforts to address the basic learning needs of all, from children, young people and adults.

At the Dakar convention 10 years later, world governments recommitted themselves to the EFA vision and drew specific goals that were to be achieved by the end of this year.

These are: expanding and improving comprehensive early childhood care and education ensuring that all children have access to free and compulsory education ensuring that learning needs of all young people and adults are met through appropriate learning and life-skills programmes achieving a 50 percent improvement in adult education and improving all aspects of the quality of education.

This, it was hoped, would be achieved mainly through ensuring free primary education and highly subsidised lower secondary education.

But for sub-Saharan Africa, the dream has remained a pie high up in the sky.

World education ministers will reconvene again next week, this time in Seoul, South Korea where they are expected to formulate new strategies ahead of the launch of the new United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Paris in December.

The SDGs, which will run until 2030, will to replace the MDGs that lapse this year.

As a precursor to that, the SDGs will be adopted at the United Nations heads of state summit in New York in September.

Zimbabwe became the first African country to launch the EFA report last Friday.

The report, first launched in India last month, says 121 million children remain out of primary school around the world, again half of that coming from the sub-Saharan region.

The rest are in Latin America, Asia and in conflict zones.

Most sub-Saharan governments were not prioritising education in their national budgets against the letter and spirit of Jomtein and Dakar.

Governments agreed to spend between 15-20 percent of their annual budgets on education alone but many in Africa have been found wanting.

While blaming governments’ lack of political will to fund education, the report also criticised the international donor community for not keeping its promise to fund education in needy countries.

“Donors should greatly increase their disbursements to education and ensure that they are better targeted. Global development and humanitarian aid coordination must not leave behind the countries most in need of support,” it states.

According to the report, the total funding gap for education stands at a whopping US$22 billion.

Zimbabwe, which has the region’s highest literacy rate at 92,4 percent, is one of the few African countries spending better on education according to the report.

But with a huge portion of it going towards expenditure, such as salaries and allowances, that does not directly benefit children, it is difficult to measure how much this was helping the situation.

Primary and Secondary Education Minister, Lazarus Dokora, recently admitted in Parliament that the country had a serious schools infrastructure deficit.

Zimbabwe is also among countries that have made strides in terms of developing the school curriculum to get it in sync with emerging trends to give children relevant education.

Although Zimbabwe has the best teacher training standards in southern Africa, it has struggled to keep them motivated to work and even to retain them due to poor remuneration. The situation has seen many of them flocking to other countries for better earnings, thereby compromising the quality of education.

Dokora received the report on behalf of government from UNESCO country director and representative, Hubert Gijzen.

Source : Financial Gazette

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