Erik Solheim on education in Sudan

Erik Solheim

Erik Solheim

On July 4 in Geneva, the Economic and Social Council opened its 2011 substantive session, which will run from 4 to 29 July at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. The Council began with a High-Level Segment focused on advancing the Education for All agenda.

By Marit Fosse

Norwegian American Weekly

The opening addresses were given by Lazarous Kapambwe, President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Joseph Deiss, President of the General Assembly, and Asha-Rose Migiro, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Norway was represented by Erik Solheim, Minister of the Environment and Development Cooperation, who raised the subject of Southern Sudan, where there was nothing in terms of educational facilities – no school rooms, no equipment, no school books, no roofs and no salaries – yet teachers have continued to work in the spirit of educating the young. Education is of absolute importance to them.

Mr. Solheim stated that in meetings about education, most usually, everyone agrees that education is necessary and that more resources are needed, and then the discussion ceases. Many developing countries had been incredibly successful. Indonesia was a case in point that when the political will was there, significant achievements were made. Developing countries were responsible for educating their children, and resources needed to be mobilized. However, many developing countries were allocating a significant portion of funds to subsidizing fossil fuel use or arms. New forms of development aid are being advanced by new donors, including China, India and Brazil. Development aid is rising worldwide. The number one priority for improving education should be a focus on teachers. Increasing the number of teachers but also improving their education and thus the quality of teaching should be priorities, Solheim said.

In addition, many countries had made significant strides in improving education by abolishing school fees, as was the case in Burundi. Rwanda was a shining example, which had achieved one hundred per cent enrollment. The neo-liberal policy that one should pay for schooling is a mistake. Access to education for vulnerable groups, including girls, certain ethnic groups and people with disabilities, should also be emphasized, his Excellency said. Further, the issue of language, a contentious aspect in certain countries, needed to be raised. Children sometimes attended school without understanding the language used in the classroom.

Source: Norwegian American Weekly

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