More girls worldwide are going to school than ever before, but millions are still denied an education in some developing countries, concludes a report slated for release this week.
The UNICEF report focuses on gender parity in primary school attendance. It says that in 125 of the 180 countries for which data were available, girls are on course to attend school in numbers equal to boys by the end of this year—a target adopted by member countries of the United Nations in 2000.
In unveiling the report, UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said that education in many countries is a “lifesaver.”
“Education is about more than just learning,” she said in a statement. “A girl out of school is more likely to fall prey to HIV/AIDS and less able to raise a healthy family.”
Gender parity in education is vital to achieving the goal of providing universal primary education for all boys and girls by 2015.
At the current rate of progress, most countries in the Middle East/North Africa, East Asia/Pacific, and Latin America/Caribbean regions are on track to achieving that goal of universal primary education by 2015. “But there is a big ‘if,’ ” said UNICEF spokeswoman Kate Donovan. To achieve the goal, countries would have to make a “concentrated effort.”
As of now, the Middle East/North Africa, West/Central Africa and South Asia regions are not on target to meet the gender parity goal by 2005, according to the report, which blames such factors as poverty, disease, and armed conflicts for the slow headway.
Meeting the goals “will require some radical shift in thinking and policies,” the report says. The U.N. estimates that an additional $5.6 billion will be required per year to achieve universal primary education.
The AIDS Obstacle
In many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, progress toward a primary school education for all has been disrupted by the AIDS pandemic. “AIDS Infects Education Systems in Africa,” March 16, 2005.)
“It has deprived schools of teachers and managers who were struck down in their prime. It has forced orphaned children to assume the burden of care for the family, making school attendance an impossibility,” the UNICEF report says.