Oxfam School quits campaign in protest.

Oxfam School quits campaign in protest.
With two months to go before the conference in Dakar, Senegal, Oxfam announced it was pulling out of the Unesco-led committee because the plans so far offered nothing for the world’s poorest children, 125m of whom are not at school.

Accusing the international organisations and western donors of a lack of political will, the agency said that the draft blueprint for the Dakar conference was “woefully inadequate”.

“This conference should be doing for education what the earth summit did for the environment, which is putting it at the top of the agenda and coming up with practical strategies,” said Kevin Watkins, senior policy officer at Oxfam. “At the moment, it is seen as a teddy bears’ picnic for international bureaucrats.”

The Dakar forum marks the 10th anniversary of the international pledge on basic education for all, which was supposed to have been achieved this year.

In many countries education enrolment rates have got worse rather than improved since 1990 and the target date has been moved to 2015. However, aid agencies doubt that even this target will be met unless world political leaders throw their weight behind it.

“The draft framework is little more than a set of vaguely worded reaffirmations of past principles and already agreed human development targets. It lacks any strategy for mobilising the resources or achieving the wider reforms needed to deliver on the right to education,” said Oxfam’s letter of resignation.

It added: “Having shamefully failed to deliver on the commitments they made 10 years ago, governments are being asked to sign on to a blueprint that commits them to nothing – and which will deliver nothing.”

Oxfam School quits campaign in protest.

Oxfam is particularly critical of the lack of any financial targets in the draft framework. The agency estimates that the cost of delivering universal primary education is $8bn ($4.9bn) a year for the next 10 years, and wants the west to stump up half of that sum, in return for firm commitments from developing countries that they will cut spending on arms and put the money into education instead.

Dieter Berstecher, the head of the organising committee at Unesco, said Oxfam’s appeal for a $4bn global education fund was unrealistic.

“The remedies are not cash payments from the north but more commitment from governments in the south,” Mr Berstecher said, adding that Oxfam’s contention that third world education was in crisis was not helpful.

“There is a lot of good news,” he said.