African educators and civil society group members gathered recently to discuss the United Nations Millennium Development Goals on Education. They said a U.N. report shows progress. But they also said some countries cannot meet the goals by the targeted date next year.
The educators and other experts said those countries cannot increase education and gain equal treatment for boys and girls in schools by 2015. They noted that this is especially true of Sub-Saharan nations.
The meeting in Yaounde, Cameroon included experts from 43 African countries.
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Jean Pierre Edzoa is an official of Cameroon's Ministry of Social Affairs. He describes life ahead for uneducated children as "a disaster." He says the government is doing everything possible to make parents understand that they harm their children if they do not send them to school.
The World Wildlife Fund for Nature is best known for its work for the environment. But it is also helping efforts to increase school attendance. Hanson Njiforti is director of the WWF office in Cameroon. He said it is now centering its efforts on education because so many children do not go to school.
That sound invites Baka and Mbororo ethnic groups in central Africa to send their children to school. They still live the traditional lives of their groups. And official education is not of top importance for them.
Mr. Njiforti notes that the Baka people have been asked for their ideas about how to get children into school rooms.
Bois Waruku is with the group Africa Network Campaign on Education for All. He says the meeting in Yaounde provided a chance to look to the future.
"The sustainable development goals that civil society's been pushing for is that beyond 2015. ... Before 2015 the world leaders did commit to millennium development goals which were to be achieved by 2015, so a number of the goals that they committed to are coming to an end in 2015. Beyond 2015, what should it be like?"
Beatrice Njenga heads the Education Division at the African Union Commission. She says educators are preparing a 50-year education program for Africa. She says they need financial help and central planning.
"If you want to support Africa, you need to understand Africa's very well-articulated vision as the priorities in education for 2063 so that all investment is towards a common vision. So unless you actually sit and put in place strategies to achieve what we need to achieve in 50 years, it will be 2063 and we'll be still talking about the same thing."
The education experts reported some good news. They said rates of poverty have been decreasing and more children are in school. They said that is especially true in the more than 30 countries where schools for the youngest children are opening.
I'm Jerilyn Watson.