Ministers agree to make education in rural areas a top priority
Education for rural people essential for the achievement of the MDGs
9 September 2005, Addis Ababa/Rome - Ministers of education, agriculture, fisheries and rural development and high-level officials from eleven African countries today agreed to make education in rural areas a top priority.
At the end of a three-day conference in the Ethiopian capital, Marcela Villarreal, who heads FAO's Gender and Population Division, commented that enhancing education for rural people will contribute to fighting food insecurity and poverty in rural areas, "an important step towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals."
Ministers and senior officials from Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Guinea, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Niger, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda participated in the seminar.
They called on governments to promote education for rural people as a top national priority and ensure that it is reflected through increased budgetary allocations and investments. More than 70 percent of the total population in sub-Saharan Africa lives in rural areas.
A strategic priority
For every 100 urban children who have access to primary education, only 68 do so in rural areas, while for every 100 children in urban areas who complete primary school, only 46 do so in rural zones.
"These inequities in education directly threaten the sustainable development of the sub-Saharan region. Food security and poverty reduction strategies are directly dependent on our capacity to foster rural children's access to quality primary education," the ministers stated in their final communiqué.
To meet the education for all goals and the food security goals set in Rome at the World Food Summit (1996) and the World Food Summit: five years later (2002), the ministers called for "effective partnerships among those engaged in policy-making in education and those in agriculture, fisheries and rural development."
"Close collaboration is required among the ministries of education and agriculture, civil society, the media and the private sector" said the African ministers, adding that "much is yet to be done" in rural areas, in particular as regards access to education by girls and women.
Factors behind the discrimination against girls and women in education include negative cultural values, early marriage, sexual harassment, excessive domestic chores and disregard for the importance of girls' education.
Recommendations for action
The ministers suggested a series of measures to be taken by ministries of education, agriculture, fisheries and rural development in close collaboration with civil society and the business sector in order to improve the quality of education for rural people.
They called on the donor community to provide additional resources for targeting education to rural people.
Finally they urged cooperation agencies to consolidate the work undertaken by FAO and UNESCO in sub-Saharan Africa within the framework of the Education for Rural People Partnership led by FAO, which includes the International Institute for Education Planning (IIEP), the Regional Office for Education in Africa (BREDA) and the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA).
Impact on the MDGs
"Because of its direct impact on all the MDGs, education for rural people will be one of the main challenges of the coming decade," FAO education expert Lavinia Gasperini said.
"Some developing countries have made tremendous progress in rural poverty reduction by investing in human development and implementing relevant education programmes in rural schools and colleges," Ms Gasperini added.
The Addis Ababa seminar was organized by FAO, ADEA and IIEP-UNESCO with the support of the Italian Development Cooperation (DGCS) and the Norwegian Education Trust Fund at the World Bank.
Media Relations, FAO
(+39) 06 570 53473
(+39) 348 252 3807
e-mail this article