Genoa violence overshadows positive steps on schooling for all

Brendan O'Malley


The violent protests between police and protesters at Genoa grabbed the headlines. But behind the scenes , the leaders of the world's eight wealthiest nations made significant pledges that could prove a turning point in the campaign to give every child in the world a place in primary school.

The leaders agreed to set up an international task force of senior officials to advise on how best to achieve education for all by 2015. This is the target set at last year's World Education Forum in Dakar, Senegal, and supported by The TES in its Education for All campaign.

Currently 125 million children worldwide do not go to school.

The task force will provide recommendations in time for next year's summit in Canada - which Canadian premier Jean Chretien has already pledged will focus on the role of education in eradicating poverty.

Oxfam, a persistent critic of failure to create a global mechanism to mobilise resources and check on progress towards the Dakar target, hailed the groundwork laid in Genoa for an "ambitious agenda next year on Africa and education".

G8 leaders affirmed their belief in the need for primary education and equal access to education for girls to be given priority in anti-poverty and development programmes.

They promised to improve the effectiveness of aid and to assist with more training of teachers using information technology. They also promised to encourage the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to concentrate funding on poor countries that had developed sound plans for strengthening education. They also pledged to launch systems to measure progress and to report back at next year's G8 summit.

Tony Burdon, senior policy adviser for Oxfam, said while failure to secure more concessions from the G8 on debt relief at Genoa had been disappointing, this bold initiative on education, if fulfilled, could "restore a sense of legitimacy and purpose to these summits".

He said: "Last year the G8 promised a global plan for education. In Genoa they said how to accomplish it. By this time next year we'll know if they will pay their share. If the G8 want to show they make a difference, they need to match the rhetoric with finance next year in Canada."

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Brendan O'Malley

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