Ministers of Education and high-level representatives from 16 countries gathered in Doha today at the Second Educate A Child High-Level Ministerial Meeting, under the auspices of Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, to discuss and lend their support to expanding access to primary education programmes for millions of children who lack their fundamental right to primary education. In total, the countries participating in the meeting represent nearly one-third (31%) of the children who are not enrolled in primary education. The meeting was held at the Hamad Bin Khalifa University Student Centre in Education City, and received financial support from ExxonMobil.
The meeting was convened by Educate A Child, a global programme of Education Above All Foundation, an initiative of Her Highness Sheikha Moza, that aims to trigger significant breakthroughs in providing quality primary education to the 57 million children who currently have no access to schooling. Countries in attendance included Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Burkina Faso, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Philippines, South Africa, Tanzania (including Zanzibar) and Yemen.
Marcio Barbosa, CEO of Education Above All, commented: “The strong response we received, both in attendance and commitment, from the most senior education officials in priority countries for enrolment speaks to the momentum of the Educate A Child movement. Government support is a necessary precursor to success. It’s critical to sustainability, and helping ensure that kids who are enrolled in educational programmes are retained. We’re pleased that participants endorsed Educate A Child and have agreed to provide political support to the programme’s efforts in their respective countries, thus opening the door to primary education for many more children.”
Ministers were invited to the meeting based on their countries being identified as priority for expansion of Educate A Child co-funded programmes. Currently, Educate A Child operates 44 programmes in 24 countries, but aims to expand this following the High-Level Meeting.
“In the Ministerial Segment of the meeting we heard impassioned presentations outlining the barriers to enrolment and retention in each of the participating countries. This is reality, and through such direct and open conversations we can begin to identify solutions and set a plan for implementing them in the near term,” said Dr. Mary Joy Pigozzi, Director of the Educate A Child programme. “With these key stakeholders in the room, we have the opportunity to decide to act together and have greater impact in terms of getting children access to quality primary educational programmes.”
Educate A Child is working with a broad range of international, national and local partners to reach the world’s poorest and most marginalised out of school children. Its focus is on nurturing innovative approaches to reach these children, and on replicating and scaling-up successful programmes. Present at the meeting, and also participating in the Ministerial Segment were senior Qatari government and private sector officials, Educate A Child strategic and resource partners, as well as organisations exploring new partnerships, including Qatar Petroleum, Ooredoo Group, Al Ahli Bank, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, and ExxonMobil.
Masters of Ceremonies Darren Jordon, Anchor for Al Jazeera English and Yara Bader Al-Darwish, Educate A Child Youth Advocate, set the stage and context for the meeting. Her Excellency Julia Gillard, Chair of the Global Partnership for Education and His Excellency Dr. Ahmed Mohammed Al Meraikhi, Director of International Development Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, State of Qatar provided keynote speeches to open the meeting. The keynotes were followed by concurrent sessions - a ministerial segment and a country showcase, where Ministry representatives presented their programmes, progress and challenges regarding out of school children and heard about the work of others. Solutions for reaching the children in each country were discussed and will be taken forward from the meeting. In the afternoon, the focus turned to West Africa, alignment of Educate A Child with National Education Plans and sharing of data on the out of school children issue.
Mali’s Minister of Education, Her Excellency Togola Marie Jacqueline Nana, commented: “I eagerly accepted the invitation from Educate A Child to participate in this High-Level Meeting of colleagues focused on a common goal - providing educational opportunities for all of our children. Through discussions and learning from each other we have identified potential pathways to increasing the opportunities for out of school children locally and regionally. This is fundamental to my country’s continued growth, development and future prosperity. We take seriously the commitment that needs to be made to this generation and future generations, and I am thankful to the leadership of Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser in championing the cause of out of school children around the world.”
In less than six months from its launch, Educate A Child was already supporting primary education for more than 500,000 new pupils through projects in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and South America. In less than 18 months since launch the organisation is providing access to nearly 2 million children, with a goal of reach at least 10 million children with quality primary education.
In addition to co-funding project work and convening public and political will for action, Educate A Child is highlighting the critical resource gap for primary education in low-income countries. At an event held in the margins of the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this year, Education Above All management highlighted the need for new funds to accelerate access to education for out of school children.