World summit clash on education of poor.

World summit clash on education of poor.

As UN figures were produced showing that the education standards in most developing countries have deteriorated badly in the past 10 years and that the educationally rich have got richer at the expense of poor, the conference of 181 countries and all big donors and UN bodies was challenged to adopt a fast-track plan to provide quality education for all.

The Global Campaign for Education, which is a coalition of more than 400 big charities, development groups and international teachers’ unions will list nine commitments they want to see governments and global institutions adopt. They include quadrupling aid given for education from rich countries, clear budgetary commitments by third world governments and a process whereby every country which comes up with acceptable plans would get the money to implement them.World summit clash on education of poor.

One of the leaders of the campaign said yesterday: “We have had enough of the principles and platitudes. What we want is a clear plan backed by real money to bring education to everyone soon”.

The idea has support from the World Bank, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium and Canada but is expected to be opposed by the British international development secretary, Clare Short, when she arrives in Dakar today. The UK and the US are known to prefer to work directly with indi vidual countries and do not favour a broad-based global plan.

However, James Wolfenson, head of the World Bank, yesterday argued strongly that the international community should act quickly: “We want the forum to put in place a fast-track system for a first group of countries who are committed to achieving universal education goals and have viable strategies to do so.”

The second flashpoint of the conference is expected to be over whether the poorest families continue to be forced to contribute to the costs of their children’s eduation. The NGOs argue that this practice of “cost recovery” is one of the biggest barriers to education for the poorest but many developing countries are unwilling to tax other sectors of society to provide free schooling. The World Bank and International Monetary Fund who dictate many developing countries’ economic priorities, continue to support what has been dubbed an education tax.

Meanwhile, NGOs were furious that the UN conference had excluded many delegations from poor countries, ostensibly on the grounds of lack of space. Jennifer Chiwella, a spokeswoman for the 400-plus groups in Dakar said: “We are deeply dissatisfied and disappointed. The attitude of the UN agencies is intolerable”.