Education Updates for November 2001

Table of Contents

1. Africa and Education for All

2. AAUW Report on Sexual Harassment

3. Statistics on Cuba Appear Promising

4. Right of Child Updates

5. France Advocates Debt Forgiveness to help EFA Initiatives

6 Britain's Minister of Education Advises World Bank and IMF to be
More Proactive in Funding EFA

7. UN Report on Violence Against Women click here

8. UN Country Statements on Children's Rights click here

9. Last week, Paris hosted an Education For All Forum. Much of this weeks news
is devoted to an update on that issue -- for a background on Education for All click here

AFRICA -- UNICEF estimates that 110 million children in the developing world do not go to school and that two-thirds of these are girls. In sub-Saharan Africa, UNICEF says, 42 million girls have no access to education.

Ugandan Prime Minister Appolo Nsibambi opened the three-day conference, calling on adult delegates to "seal a pact with the children of Africa" to change the conditions children live under. "Sexual favors have forced girls into prostitution and early marriages," Nsibambi told conference delegates. "We have to effect the cause of girls' education in Africa. We have to come up with a social vaccine."

Education ministers, educators and non-governmental groups have converged in Kampala with about 200 children from across Africa to map out strategies to better educate girls in a system they say is biased in favor of boys.

Among those attending the conference were young people, including 11-year-old Zambian Mwape Namfukwe who had complaints regarding the treatment of girls in her own country. "We girls are discriminated against. At school, we sweep classrooms while boys watch. At home, we cook, and clean kitchens while boys are reading. Girls do not have enough time to read," Namfukwe told Deutsche Presse-Agentur.

At the end of the conference President Yoweri Museveni is to launch a continental network known as Girls Education Movement in Africa (GEM) to coordinate activities across Africa aimed at advancing girls' education. According to organizers, GEM resolutions reached by the end of the conference will be handed over to Museveni who will in turn present them to the UN Special Session on Children. (Deutsche Presse-Agentur)

USA -- Four out of five US students -- both boys and girls --complain of sexual harassment at school, ranging from verbal taunts to unwanted touching, according to a recent report from Reuters News. The study by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) Educational Foundation said, despite a zero-tolerance policy in most schools, students faced sexual harassment both in words and actions, often right under a teacher's nose. Most of the students surveyed said their school had a policy about harassment, compared to just a quarter in a 1993 AAUW study. However, this ''sea change'' in policy had not translated into fewer incidents.

The report, Hostile Hallways II, Bullying, Teasing and Sexual Harassment in School, was based on a survey of 2,064 public school students between eighth and 11th grades. The margin of error for the survey is plus or minus five per cent. Students were given a definition of sexual harassment as ''unwanted and unwelcome sexual behavior that interferes with your life.'' It did not include behaviors they might welcome, such as ''wanted kissing, flirting or touching.''

Girls were more likely to report being negatively affected by harassment than boys, with 44 per cent of girls feeling ''self-conscious'' versus 19 per cent of boys because of an unpleasant incident. However, both boys and girls were ''very upset'' over taunts on their sexuality and being labeled gay or lesbian, with 74 per cent of boys and 73 per cent of girls feeling this way. ''This response is disturbing as it points to the area of homophobia in schools,'' said Pamela Haag, the foundation's director of research. The foundation said the survey proved the problem of classroom harassment could not be shrugged off as normal preteen and teenage behavior. (Deutsche Presse-Agentur)

CUBA -- World Bank President James Wolfensohn extolled the communist government of President Fidel Castro for doing "a good job" in providing for the social welfare of the Cuban people, reports IPS (May 1, 2001):

His remarks followed the April 28 publication of the Bank's 2001 edition of "World Development Indicators" (WDI), which showed Cuba as topping virtually all other poor countries in health and education statistics. It also showed that Havana has actually improved its performance in both areas despite the continuation of the US trade embargo against it and the end of Soviet aid and subsidies for the Caribbean island more than 10 years ago;

Cuba has reduced its infant mortality rate from 11 per 1,000 births in 1990 to 7 in 1999, which places it firmly in the ranks of the Western industrialized nations. By comparison, the infant mortality rate for Argentina stood at 18 in 1999; Chile's was down to 10; and Costa Rica, 12. For the entire Latin American and Caribbean region as a whole, the average was 30 in 1999; the mortality rate for children under five in Cuba has fallen from 13 to 8 per 1,000 over the decade. That figure is 50% lower than the rate in Chile, the Latin American country closest to Cuba's achievement. For the region as a whole, the average was 38 in 1999;

In education, net primary enrollment for both girls' and boys reached 100% in 1997, up from 92% in 1990. That was as high as most developed nations, higher even than the US rate and well above 80-90% rates achieved by the most advanced Latin American countries. Public spending on education in Cuba amounts to about 6.7% of gross national income, twice the proportion in other Latin America and Caribbean countries. The average youth (ages 15-24) illiteracy rate in Latin America and the Caribbean stands at 7%; in Cuba, the rate is zero. (Global News Wire Caribbean Update)

UN -- Welcoming the upcoming entry into force of a treaty on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said here Tuesday the event would be a major step forward in the protection of children from exploitation, trafficking and sexual abuse.

With the submission of Romania's tenth ratification last Thursday, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child will become a legally binding instrument on 18 January 2002, according to a statement released by UNICEF from its headquarters in New York. The agency estimates that one million children, mainly girls' are forced into the multi-billion dollar commercial sex trade every year. The children are often lured with promises of an education or a "good job." Girls appear to be forced into the sex industry at increasingly younger ages partly as a result of the mistaken belief that younger girls are unlikely to be infected with HIV/AIDS virus, the UNICEF statement said.

It is often very difficult for the children to seek help, not just because of their young age, but because they have no birth certificates or official documents and are therefore "invisible," the statement said. Child prostitution, child pornography and the sale of children occur within countries and across borders, with perpetrators and victims in both industrialized and developing countries. It is therefore essential, said UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy, that governments urgently commit to implementing Optional Protocol and "work together to ensure that no child is again forced into this cruel trade."

Once ratified and translated into national law, the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography places responsibility squarely with the adults involved in the activities, criminalizing the violations of children's rights. It also calls for measures towards increased public awareness and international cooperation in efforts to combat them.

Bellamy congratulated the first 10 countries ratifying the treaty -- Andorra, Bangladesh, Cuba, Iceland, Kazakhstan, Panama, Sierra Leone, Norway, Morocco and Romania - and called upon all States to swiftly move to making this same commitment to their children. "At this time, a total of 69 countries have signed the Protocol and still need to proceed to ratification," she said. "It would be a marvelous testimony of our commitment to children if this protocol were to enjoy overwhelming support before the Second World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children to be held in Yokohama, Japan in December this year." (XINHUA GENERAL NEWS SERVICE, October 23, 2001)

FRANCE -- French Cooperation minister Charles Josselin Tuesday told a high level group meeting on Education for All that Paris would provide debt relief evaluated at 10 billion Euros in favor of social sectors, notably education, for developing countries mostly in Africa.

Josselin was speaking at the UNESCO headquarters where he attended a meeting organized to reinforce engagements made at the April 2000 Dakar Forum on Education for All. At the Dakar Forum the donor countries and international financial institutions pledged to ensure that no country failed to meet the Dakar action plan on Education for All.

Josselin said that French technical support to UNESCO would likewise be reinforced through an agreement signed with the Dakar-based Regional Bureau on Education in Africa (BREDA), which was assigned follow up of the Education for All strategy in Sub Saharan Africa. The French Development Agency (AFD) was expected to compliment French support in various other domains to promote investment in favor of the scheme, he said.

Josselin disclosed that Paris would in the near future host a working group meeting of the G8 to make recommendations on how best to support UNESCO's efforts as well as proposals from the High level Group meeting on Education for All. Josselin told participants to the meeting, including donor countries, multi-lateral and bilateral organizations, NGOs and civil society groups that Paris had reoriented its project assistance in favor of national strategies on education, in line with its Priority Solidarity Fund. (Panafrican News Agency (PANA) Daily Newswire, October 30, 2001)

FRANCE -- UK secretary of state for international cooperation Clare Short said Tuesday in Paris that despite the progress made in recent years, development agencies were still not giving basic education the resources it needed. The World Bank and development agencies must give more money towards educating children in poor countries, Clare Short said today. The International Development Secretary stressed more funding and better coordinated global efforts were needed to meet the challenge of "abolishing illiteracy from the human condition". Accelerated progress, Short said, required a step-change in the level of international financing to support and sustain Universal Primary Education (UPE). In order to achieve such objectives, she said development agencies and international banks, including the World Bank, should increase the resources committed to helping reforming governments deliver UPE.

Short urged the International Monetary Fund to take full account of anticipated aid flows in assisting countries to design fiscal packages. The UK minister indicated that sustained support, particularly to sub-Saharan African countries, was essential in view of the size and nature of the challenges facing the region which is among those that have the highest rates of children out of school.

Speaking at the annual Education for All High Level Group meeting in Paris, Ms Short urged delegates from governments around the world to "re-energize" their commitment to primary education for all children by 2015. An estimated 113 million children not in school suffered from poverty, the consequences of violent conflict, the impact of HIVAids and gender discrimination, Ms Short said.

"The figures give some indication of the scale of the education challenge that confronts us," she said. Ms Short argued that girls were worst affected, making up 60% of those children not enrolled at primary school. Nearly 90% of children not at primary school are from Sub-Saharan Africa, South and West Asia and the Arab states, and north Africa, she said.

"Despite progress in recent years, development agencies as a whole are still not giving basic education the resources it needs. "Development agencies and the international development banks, including the World Bank, must increase the resources committed to helping reforming governments deliver universal primary education," she said.

Ms Short also stressed the need for greater coordination between development agencies. "We are the first generation who have in our hands the possibility of abolishing illiteracy from the human condition. Let us ensure that we rise to the challenge," she said. The Education for All High Level Group was established to continue at a "high level" the work of the World Education Forum at Dakar, 18 months ago. It is attended by education and development ministers from around the world, and convened by the UNESCO director general, Koichiro Matsuura. (Press Association, October 30, 2001)