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Education: On the Fast Track for Progress

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Delegates listen at the EFA conference

Delegates listen at the EFA conference

August 6th, 2007, Cape Town , South Africa —School children in Burundi have the will to go to school but not the facilities, according to Edouard Juma, a member of Burundi’s Ministry of Education. In many areas of the country though students attend class, classrooms, books and teachers are scarce.

“Much of the education infrastructure was destroyed during the long civil conflict that devastated the country,” said Juma.

On July 16, Juma, along with 80 officials from several Sub Saharan countries, international organizations and countries partnering with African nations to support educational initiatives, gathered in Cape Town for a three-day workshop aimed at increasing African leadership in achieving the goals of the Education for All Fast Track Initiative (EfA FTI).

Sajitha Bashir and Edouard Juma with Burundi delegates in a break-out session

Sajitha Bashir and Edouard Juma with Burundi delegates in a break-out session

Launched in 2002, by a consortium of 30 countries, the global initiative seeks to enhance the quality of education in Africa and ensure access to primary school for all African children.

“The workshop provides an opportunity to speak directly with FTI representatives about technical needs to achieve our objectives,” said Juma.

International education specialists and policy makers from Lesotho, Burundi, Benin, Sierra Leone, Zambia, Uganda, Madagascar and South Africa shared their experiences in implementing the EfA in their respective countries.

“We are starting over. Education was brought to its knees by the war,” said Albert Dupigny, a representative of Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Education. “These workshops begin to help us address the issues and open our eyes. We can listen to others and share experiences, and understand better how to access funds for our pressing needs.”

As part of the EfA FTI, donors, including the World Bank, agree to provide financial and technical assistance, while partner countries receiving the funds agree to put primary education at the forefront of their domestic efforts and develop sound national education plans to accelerate achievement of universal primary education.

World Bank delegate Serge Theunynck gives a presentation on implementation of education programs

World Bank delegate Serge Theunynck gives a presentation on implementation of education programs

Donors encourage the recipient countries to work together on strategy and learning.

“A workshop like this creates a network of learning that allows people to share ideas across countries,” said Yaw Ansu, the World’ Bank’s Human Development Director for Africa. “This allows people to begin to rely on each other, not the Bank or other donors, and we see this beginning to happen.”

Ansu noted that progress has been made in enrollment under the program.

“Now we are faced with the challenge of ensuring quality education,” he said. “Going forward the focus has to be on the quality of learning outcomes. We are now reaching the marginalized, the poor, the remote areas and we need to find specific strategies to achieve results.”

An estimated 77 million children are not enrolled in schools around the world, with 38 million of those children in Sub-Saharan Africa. In Africa alone, an estimated 1.6 million teachers would need to be hired to reach the goal of universal primary education.

Yaw Ansu, Rebekka van Roemberg and Albert Dupigny discuss FTI in Sierra Leone

Yaw Ansu, Rebekka van Roemberg and Albert Dupigny discuss FTI in Sierra Leone

Since 2000, the World Bank has more than doubled its annual new lending for education. Total education lending increased from $728 million in 2000 to over $2.5 billion projected for 2006. By serving as the base of the global Fast Track initiative, the World Bank is playing a pivotal role in bringing donors, civil society and developing countries together around the same goal.

The initiative and the Bank’s overall education strategy are in line with the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal of getting all the world’s children into school before 2015.

In the past five years, around 23 million children – who previously had no access to education – have enrolled in primary school. Six Sub-Saharan African countries have increased primary completion by over 10 percent a year since 2000.

To date, some 33 countries from Sub-Saharan Africa are either participating in EfA-FTI or have expressed interest in joining the partnership.

Contributed by Mallory Saleson, Senior Communications Officer, South Africa Country Office