The United Nations Children Education Fund, UNICEF, called yesterday for the abolish of school fees and provision of scholarship and other financial incentives for disadvantaged as specific steps to have as many girls in schools and achieve universal primary education by 2015.
In a report on Gender parity in primary and secondary education by 2005, UNICEF disclosed that nearly 115 million children, the majority of them girls, remain out of primary school, according to UNICEF, the lead agency in the UN Girls Education Initiative.
Gender Achievements and Prospects in Education (GAP) looks specifically at the continuing enrolment imbalances between girls and boys at the primary school level.
Forty-six countries have fallen short of the target of getting as many girls as boys into school by 2005, UNICEF said today, launching a report illustrating progress and challenges toward achieving gender equity in education.
The report underlines that while only 46 countries world-wide have fallen short of the target, there are additional countries where the overall enrolment of children remains unacceptably low.
The exclusion of girls from school not only affects individual girls and their families, but also imperils wider development efforts, the report states, because educating girls is a proven element in social and economic development.
Education is a fundamental part of growing up, said UNICEF Executive
Director Ann M. Veneman.
Education of children, especially girls, is the cornerstone to national progress, because it leads to greater economic productivity, reduced infant and maternal mortality, and a greater likelihood that the next generation of children will go to school.
This is an achievable goal, as we know from the fact that so many countries have made strides in closing the gap, said UNICEF Deputy
Executive Director Rima Salah, speaking from Beijing where the global advisory committee of the Girls Education Initiative is meeting in advance of UNESCO yearly meeting on Education for All.
Among the 180 countries for which data were available, 125 countries, 91 developing countries and 34 industrialized countries are on course to reach the gender target and have as many girls as boys in school by the end of 2005.
The reasons why children are denied an education include poverty, gender discrimination, poor governance and disease, including HIV/AIDS, as well as natural disasters and man-made emergencies.
Calling attention to the impact of HIV/AIDS on children, teachers and schools, Veneman also noted that UNICEF campaign Unite for Children,
Unite against AIDS shines a spotlight on those millions of children whose education has been affected by the global pandemic.
Children, particularly girls, whose parents are living with HIV are often forced to leave school and go to work to support their families.