World Bank pushes education; US absent

By IAN CAMPBELL, UPI Chief Economics Correspondent  |  April 21, 2002 at 12:28 PM
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WASHINGTON, April 21 (UPI) -- One hundred and twenty-five million children around the world never attend school. On Sunday, British, Dutch and Canadian ministers expressed their support for getting all children into school by 2015 but one panelist Phil Twyford, of the non-governmental organization Oxfam, criticized the absence of the United States.

One of the millennium goals established at the World Education Forum in Dakar, Senegal was that by 2015 all the world's children should receive primary schooling. The World Bank believes now that 88 million children will remain without any education by 2015 unless more begins to be done.

Early Sunday morning in Washington, UK Chancellor Gordon Brown, Dutch Education Minister Eveline Herfkens, Canadian Finance Minister Paul Martin and Norwegian Development Minister Hilde Johnson all expressed their support for providing the $2.5 billion per year of external financing that will be required to make the plan possible.

Children need not just to get into school but also to learn something there, Herfkens said.

The children need a "complete education," school fees should be abolished, education should be linked to prevention of HIV/Aids and the "gender gap should be closed," for at present less girls receive education than boys. The Dutch government was "ready now to commit 135 million euros ($120 million) to the program," Herfkens said.

Brown applauded the education initiative and said "we will do more to substantially increase Britain's aid budget in volume terms."

Norway's Johnson said "despite Dakar ... not enough has happened." Norway, she said, would increase the share of its aid budget devoted to education from 8 percent to 15 percent, and Norway planned to increase its total aid budget to 1 percent of gross domestic product -- more than the 0.7 percent of GDP that the United Nations is currently asking developed countries to devote to aid.

Twyford of Oxfam -- praised by many for its work in promoting the education initiative -- introduced a critical note. It was crucial in the World Development Committee's meeting this morning to be precise about how funding would be supplied to the program. A billion dollars need to be provided now to support programs, such as Tanzania's, that are already in place.

Meanwhile Twyford said that the United States is "conspicuous by its absence here." Bush needed to show he was the "education president," Twyford said. His support for the plan would be a "litmus test of the promises President Bush made at [the United Nations funding for development conference] in Monterrey."

World Bank President James Wolfensohn added that the U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill had expressed privately his support for the education initiative.

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