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Education for Rural People: NGOs in the front line
Gap between urban and rural illiteracy is widening
17 November 2004, Rome - Representatives from more than 100 nongovernmental and civil society organizations from developed and developing countries, senior officials from the Italian Development Cooperation programme and experts from FAO, UNESCO and other international organizations have agreed on strengthening their cooperation in order to address the basic education needs of the world's biggest neglected majority: rural people.

A partnership project will raise public awareness in Europe on the importance of education for rural people in poor countries and the urgent need to target rural areas where over 70 percent of the world's poor are caught in the vicious circle of being unable to access the services and opportunities that might take them out of poverty.

The project, discussed at a three-day meeting which ended today, is co-financed by the European Commission, several European NGOs, FAO and UNESCO.

"Basic education is a fundamental human right in itself and an essential prerequisite for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, specifically the first two goals which focus on eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, and achieving universal primary education," FAO Assistant Director-General John Monyo said.

"The gap between urban and rural illiteracy is widening and, in several countries, rural illiteracy is two or three times higher than in urban areas," stated Mr Monyo, pointing out that worldwide the great majority of the 2.8 billion people who survive on less than two dollars a day live in rural areas.

Children writing in the sand

In Wikihi, a village in the rural Niassa Lake region in Mozambique, schoolchildren and their teacher have no books. They write down in the sand what the teacher writes on an old wooden board using dried cassava.

"In Wikihi, as in so many other African, Asian, and Latin American villages, what is needed is an efficient, inclusive and widespread education system, which addresses the basic learning needs of rural people," Mr Monyo said.

In the past decade, international aid has stressed the importance of concentrating on the poor, but it has neglected rural areas and that means the majority of disadvantaged people.

In many poor countries, rural areas have seen little or no economic development and population pressure constitutes a threat to agricultural resources and the natural environment, according to FAO.

The phenomenon is particularly true for education. Children's access to education in rural areas is still much lower than in urban areas, adult illiteracy is much higher and the quality of education is poorer.

Illiteracy on the increase

"Illiteracy, which is on the increase in the developing world, also means that more and more farmers will be unable to read the instructions on a bag of fertilizer or the warnings on a box of pesticide. Without basic education, rural people cannot increase their productivity, adopt enhanced technologies and improve their livelihoods," FAO expert Lavinia Gasperini said.

She underlined that the problem of poverty is first of all a problem of rural poverty and food security. "This has prompted FAO to accept the challenge of leading the partnership project on education for rural people and food security," she said.

More than 30 European NGOs will contribute to the project by sharing with FAO and UNESCO experience, knowledge, methodologies and competences on education for rural people.

"An advocacy campaign launched by a group of Italian and European NGOs will target governments, ministries, public administrations, regional and local decision makers, schools, civil society organizations and media in order to raise awareness on the education needs of rural areas and on initiatives to address rural-urban disparities," said Ada Civitani from Italian NGO Associazione di Cooperazione Rurale in Africa e America Latina (ACRA).
Contact:
Pierre Antonios
Information Officer, FAO
pierre.antonios@fao.org
(+39) 06 570 53473

Contact:

Pierre Antonios
Information Officer, FAO
pierre.antonios@fao.org
(+39) 06 570 53473

FAO/G. Bizzarri

In Mozambique, schoolchildren in remote rural areas receive little or no education.

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Education for Rural People: NGOs in the front line
Gap between urban and rural illiteracy is widening
17 November 2004 - Rural people in poor countries will benefit from basic education thanks to a project co-financed by the European Commission, several European NGOs, FAO and UNESCO.
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