UN chief calls for greater efforts to address global educational inequalities

15:38, January 20, 2010      

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Education is a fundamental human right, yet it still remains a goal that is difficult to achieve, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said here Tuesday as he called for greater efforts to address educational inequalities, particularly for children in developing countries.

Speaking at the launch of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Global Monitoring Report on Education for All at the UN Headquarters in New York, Ban said that "we must change this picture" of disparities in global education.

"Education is a fundamental human right enshrined in the 1948 Universal Declaration," he said. "It should never be an accident of circumstance."

Less than 55 percent of school-age children in developing countries attend secondary school, Ban said.

"This goal is now looking difficult to achieve," Ban said of universal primary education. "Difficult, but not impossible."

The UNESCO report examined the type of children being deprived of their education, the reasons why they were being denied their education and the cost to provide the necessary schooling for those children.

Ban noted that the report showed promising results on some fronts, in that the gender gap in primary education has narrowed, and that some of the world's poorest countries have made progress.

Benin had one of the world's lowest enrollment rates in 1999 and is now be on track in achieving universal primary education by 2015, he said.

"However, the hard truth is that this progress is not fast enough," Ban said.

If current trends persist, there will still be 50 million out of school by 2015, Ban said, warning that millions more drop out before finishing primary school and many receive a poor education.

The UNESCO report identified priority actions in two keys -- that countries need to strengthen efforts in reaching those children left behind in their education as well as a scaled-up approach in aid efforts.

"All too often, governments are delivering good quality education for some, while failing to provide for poor, socially marginalized children," Ban said. "We must overcome this disparity. "

Ban urged donors to "step up their efforts" amid the global downturn, as aid for education equates to "great returns" for poverty reduction, economic growth, child survival and democracy.

He also called on countries to meet their international aid commitments for an education for all. "It cannot be right that money earmarked for aid to the world's poorest people should be reduced as a result of it," Ban said

"Let us all work together with great urgency to meet the target we set ourselves for 2015," Ban said, referring to the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of achieving universal primary education.

Source: Xinhua
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