More children going to school but girls still denied education

New York, April 19 | Updated: Apr 20 2005, 05:30am hrs
More youngsters than ever before are attending school but millions of girls are still being denied basic education, a new report by Unicef has said. The "progress for children" report by the UNs child agency stresses that to make the millennium goal a reality, a radical shift in the thinking and policy would be required.

"This report proves that our strategic focus on getting more girls into school is working to increase attendance rates for boys and girls in primary school," Unicef executive director Carol Bellamy said. "But it also makes clear that a quantum leap is needed both to break down the barriers keeping girls out of school and to make school available to all children." Girls who do not attend primary school are more likely to fall victim to HIV infection and less able to bring up a healthy family, she said.

A "quantum leap" in resources and an extra $5.6 billion a year are needed to reach the goal of universal primary education by 2015 which is a millennium development goal (MDG), the report said. It said the gender gap in primary education is closing globally but in some parts of the world, there are wide gaps. Some 125 out of 180 countries for which data are available are on course to reach gender parity by 2005, a prerequisite for achieving the education MDG, but the global average masks huge pockets of inequity. Three regions -- the Middle East and north Africa; south Asia; and west and central Africa will not meet the gender parity goal.

According to projections, fewer than 100 million children may be out of primary school by 2005, down from an estimated 115 million in 2001. But whatever the exact figure, the report said it is clear that far too many are still shut out of the classroom, and at the present rate of increased school attendance, the goal of universal primary education by 2015 wont be met.