‘Many ECOWAS member states will not meet MDGs 2 and 3’

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Estimates now has shown that many member States of ECOWAS will not meet the Millennium Development Goals 2 and 3, which are universal primary education and empowering women and girls by achieving gender parity in education.

This was revealed at a week-long sub-regional meeting of experts on education of girls and other vulnerable children taking place in Banjul last week, under the auspices of the ECOWAS Girls’ Education Programme.

This education programme of ECOWAS was established in 2003 with the objective of providing all community citizens with greater access to quality education and training opportunities available in the region, and harmonizing criteria for admission into training institutions, certificates, and educational training systems in the member states.

The three day programme is part of ECOWAS Education Sector’s efforts to promote universal access to quality education and training opportunities, as well as harmonize admission criteria into educational and training institutes in member states.

Considerable progress made

Prof. Abdoulaye Maga, head of the Department of Education, Culture, Science and Technology at the ECOWAS Commission, told the meeting that this situation is notwithstanding the fact that ECOWAS member states have made considerable progress in reducing the gender gap in school enrollment.

However, significant gender gaps still remain, he said.

Since the Beijing conference in 1996, the United Nations Education Forum adoption of the MDGs and Education For All goals in 2000, girls’ education and women empowerment were identified as a priority.
“We as state actors must consciously and collectively take decisive actions to ensure that potentials of more than half of the population of West Africa are fully or at least partly utilized in order to bring the region out of the abyss of poverty, ignorance and underdevelopment,” he noted.

Smart investments

Since the Beijing conference in 1996, the United Nations Education Forum adoption of the MDGs and Education For All goals in 2000, girls’ education and women empowerment were identified as a priority.

Prof. Maga said the inter-linkages between gender inequalities, economic growth and poverty are therefore main reasons why girls’ educations and education of other vulnerable groups are smart investments.

Future economic growth and social emancipation

“The various steps being taken and the laudable plans already put in place by various governments to unleash the potential of human mind should be sustained and extended to every citizen, irrespective of the circumstances of birth, occupation and location. This makes the most sense for future economic growth and social emancipation,” he said.
The ECOWAS Girls’ education Programme is designed to strengthen the operational capacities of national structures for the promotion of girls’ education by improving access, retention and completion.
The forum in West African nation looked into ways and means of enhancing the inclusion of children, who account for more than half of the population of school-age children in formal education, for the timely realization of EFA and MDG goals, Prof. Maga said.
The meeting which is the third of its kind will document member countries’ report on policies, programmes, initiatives and activities for education of the girl-child and other vulnerable children.
The expected outcome of the meeting will be incorporated in the ECOWAS priority programme of Education of Girls and other vulnerable children. The document will be used for advocacy, sensitization and resource mobilization within the framework of MDG and EFA goals and the African Union plan of action for the Second Decade of Education 2006-2015.

By Saloum Sheriff Janko

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