Beyond-the-classroom approach vital to eradicate poverty

18 Apr 2013

image In Nigeria, pupils at Pampaida Community School are getting free lunches through a UNDP-led partnership which has helped boost attendance. Photo: Bridget Ejegwa/UNDP

Washington D.C. – With 1,000 days to go to meet global education goals, innovative partnerships and coordinated actions that go beyond the education sector are urgently needed to achieve a breakthrough for the 61 million children worldwide who are not in school.

This was the theme of a high-level forum held in Washington D.C. today, hosted by World Bank President Jim Kim, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown.

The discussions centred on overcoming basic education challenges in eight countries which account for almost half of the world’s 61 million out-of-school children – Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Nigeria, Yemen, and South Sudan.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark said it was crucial for development partners and governments to make sustained efforts to accelerate progress in closing gaps in both access and quality of education. 

“Education is key to developing the human capital of the next generation, and for eradicating poverty, but many factors need to come together for successful learning outcomes,” Helen Clark said today.

“An holistic approach which covers factors such as early childhood nutrition, health care and access to quality schooling is needed so we can build on the progress made in increasing enrolment rates and achieving gender parity in primary education, given the significant challenges that remain.”

From 2000 to 2012, the share of primary school-age children out-of-school globally decreased from 16% to 9%.  Yet in Nigeria, for example, about 42% of all primary school-age children (10.5 million children) are still not at school.  Gender bias in education, including weak local governance structures and financing are some of the major challenges.

In Bangladesh, the government has made progress in building a progressively inclusive education system yet there is a strong need to expand education to children living in urban slums, and to help an estimated 500,000 child labourers make the transition to learning and education.

To promote an integrated approach with other sectors, such as health and food security, the participants acknowledged that partners must address overlapping barriers to learning and promote education as a priority for high-level discussions on the post-2015 development agenda.

“It’s particularly important to continue advocating to retain a focus on coordinated country level actions, including taking advantage of existing instruments such the MDG Acceleration Framework,” Helen Clark said. 

UNDP supports a range of efforts to accelerate progress towards achieving strong and sustainable learning outcomes, including initiatives focused on rural children, urban working children and children emerging from crisis situations. 

For example, UNDP in Ethiopia has supported the Children Parliamentarians to organize forums together with their communities to stop child marriages and help rural children gain access to books and other materials and keep students in schools.  In Ethiopia’s Amhara Region alone, the parliaments have helped prevent around 300 cases of early marriage.

The forum participants included ministers of education and finance from the eight featured countries, heads of several organizations with strong contributions in the learning field, leaders of donor agencies, civil society and private sector representatives, as well as Helen Clark and other senior UN figures.

A summary will be issued of key outcomes from the Learning for All Ministerial Roundtable and country-specific discussions held at World Bank headquarters today.