International Workshop on Education and Poverty Eradication Kampala,
Uganda, 30 July to 3 August 2001
“Education is not a way to escape poverty – It is a way of fighting it.”
Julius Nyerere, former President of the United Republic of Tanzania
“Education is not a way to escape poverty – It is a way of fighting it.” Julius Nyerere
Poverty Eradication and Education
During the World Education Forum held in Dakar in April 2000, the international community underscored the need to eradicate extreme poverty and gave its collective commitment to work towards this aim through education. A commitment to poverty eradication was also one of the most important outcomes of the World Summit for Social Development held in Copenhagen in 1995, where abject poverty was considered a severe injustice and an abuse of human rights. Its action programme proposes to support livelihood systems and survival skills to help poor people to combat poverty. Subsequently, the United Nations General Assembly declared the period 1997 to 2006 as the First United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty.
The role of education in poverty eradication, in close co-operation with other social sectors, is crucial. No country has succeeded if it has not educated its people. Not only is education important in reducing poverty, it is also a key to wealth creation. Within this context, one of the pledges of the Dakar Framework for Action – Education for All: Meeting our Collective Commitments – was “to promote EFA policies within a sustainable and well-integrated sector framework clearly linked to poverty elimination and development strategies”.
The role of education in this process is particularly one of achieving universal primary education and adult literacy. The report made by the Secretary-General of the United Nations within the context of the Decade for the Eradication of Poverty confirms that universal primary education is central to the fight against poverty. Understandably so, because this is the level of education through which most poor children pass and within which their achievements should assist them to break the cycle of poverty. In fact, education is the social institution that reaches the largest segment of the population with the goal of guiding it through a systematic learning process.
What Has Been Done So Far?
In the years following the Copenhagen World Summit much has been achieved worldwide. UNDP has undertaken a number of important studies on poverty eradication in developing countries, many of whom are already preparing their national Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP), and some of whom – Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Tanzania and Uganda – have already finalized them. Some countries have also established offices for planning and monitoring poverty reduction policies and programmes. DFID has produced a White Paper on International Development that focuses on the eradication of extreme poverty. The World Bank has published a source book of poverty reduction strategies covering most of the dimensions of poverty and is the prime mover behind the PRSPs. Similarly, many other agencies and institutions have refocused their programmes to place greater emphasis on this persisting issue. The planned investments for poverty eradication programmes should make an impact if they are appropriately channeled and monitored.
The World Bank and IMF are instituting new frameworks to address poverty by aligning social sector development closely with macro-economic policies and strategies. One of these new efforts is the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC) which has reduced the debt burdens of many of the world’s poorest nations, and a proposal to link debt-relief to country-owned Poverty Reduction Strategies is being negotiated. Examples already exist of countries (e.g. Mozambique and Bolivia) that have used their debt relief to channel resources to education.
In the context of macro economic programmes, special attention must be paid to breaking the poverty cycle for children. The adoption of systemic changes should be urged to ensure good quality education for all children. Individual developing countries (e.g. Indonesia) are attempting to design their education systems so as to cater for children’s diverse needs and even to provide additional support outside academic classes. Furthermore, there are schools and communities that, particularly through NGOs and missionary groups, have successfully provided for the education of poor children. Such experiences usually combine school education with health care, guidance and counseling services and income generating activities. Unlike economic strategies, the impact of education on poverty eradication tends to be less direct, although providing long term benefits. Nonetheless, education is pivotal in breaking the vicious cycle of poverty and social exclusion that is the reality for many people.
UNESCO has prepared various papers on poverty eradication within its fields of competence, and approached the issue through its projects. Poverty eradication is a priority in the Programme and Budget for 2002-2003 (31C/5) and appropriate initiatives will be implemented in all UNESCO programmes during the coming six years of its work.
Crucial Issues to Be Addressed by Education
Poor children have numerous disadvantages in relation to their better-off counterparts. They are usually less healthy, their language skills less developed (a factor that has negative influence on school achievement), and they are generally less well equipped – socially, emotionally and physically – to undertake a school programme. If their disadvantaged position and different day-to-day experiences are not taken into account by school education, it is no wonder that they are unable to benefit fully from the school system.
In situations of extreme poverty, girls are particularly at risk as they tend to inherit the poverty of their mothers. They are prone to abuse of all forms, and very often confined to households in which they are virtually slaves. UNICEF has been working on this issue as part of the follow-up to the 1993 Ouagadougou Pan-African Conference on the Education of Girls. Other groups of poor children who merit special attention are children orphaned by HIV/AIDS, street children, and children of some ethnic minorities. For them, the provision of non-academic support and security is essential in order to contribute to their total well being and success in life. Moreover, dialogue and cooperation with parents and families should improve their participation and performance in education.
As previously mentioned, wealth creation is a significant aspect in education programmes intended to contribute to poverty eradication. How can education assist learners to create wealth? Integration of school education within the economic activities of a community is one example. For instance, in a carpet-weaving village, lessons would also cover various aspects of the carpet industry. In this way, school education would help children to improve traditional trade skills of the village alongside other curricular contents. It would ensure their future employment possibilities and contribute to the (economic) well being of the whole community. Furthermore, the school would not then be alienated from the community and traditional trades would reinforce learning.
For the education system to truly respond to the needs of poor children and to contribute to wealth creation in communities and society at large, it needs to take the issue of poverty into special consideration in the planning of educational services. Essentially, it has to stress the preparation of all children to achieve at school, and empower them by heightening their awareness of their rights and responsibilities, their abilities, and enhance their self-confidence to enable them to improve their lives.
The challenge calls for a stocktaking of the ‘state’ of poor children (situation, conditions, reasons for poverty, etc.) so that appropriate support can be planned and targeted to them. Education systems need to heed the lessons of successful, and less successful, initiatives implemented by NGOs, private individuals, religious bodies and Governments themselves, and translate these initiatives into policies, strategies, and specific action that can be taken to scale.
2. International Workshop on Education and Poverty Eradication
The purpose of the International Workshop is to bring together educators working in poverty education policy, plans and programmes and representatives of other sectors, including health and social welfare, to exchange ideas and explore options for reaching the poorest children with good quality education. It should identify a common core of strategies to be shared among countries and to which they can refer when preparing or implementing their poverty eradication programmes. These strategies will identify steps and change processes needed at the primary level to make it more responsive to the needs of the poor. They will help countries to define more clearly and explicitly the role of education and the needs of children in their national efforts to eradicate poverty.
1 – Identification and analysis of successful experiences. This will be done mainly through consulting existing documentation, as many experiences are already available.
2 – Two countries will be invited to present their national plans of action for poverty eradication to the Meeting highlighting the role of education therein.
3 – Partnerships will be sought with UNESCO sectors and field offices, with various agencies, NGOs, and Ministries of Education.
4 – Three countries will be requested to present strategic models for monitoring programmes to reach children in extreme poverty.
5 – A special paper will be prepared on the conditions of children orphaned by AIDS, as they are among the poor children whose numbers will substantially increase in the near future.
The Workshop will be organized in plenary sessions, roundtables, and small working groups.
Plenary sessions will address the following issues:
1 – Common characteristics of the experiences of programmes for children in abject poverty – Moving towards systemic changes.
2 – Breaking the poverty cycle for children, particularly girls.
3 – Children orphaned by AIDS, with special attention to the situation of girls.
4 – Strategic monitoring of programmes for poor children.
5 – Collaboration of different agencies/partners to coherently progress towards the implementation of national plans for poverty eradication.
Two roundtable sessions will concentrate on the following themes:
1. Role of education in poverty eradication (emphasis on action):
– What are the core ways through which education can combat poverty?
– How can public education systems be adapted to meet the needs of the poor?
Additionally: How should responsibility be shared with other social sectors? How can the accountability of different stakeholders be assured? How can delivery and support systems ensure achievement for all?
2. From Short-term to Long-term Development – Changing Values in Society
Abject poverty is more than not having money; it is a form of social exclusion. Regrettably, it is sometimes even sustained by society (e.g. through child labor) since it offers short-term benefits for the country and privileges for a few. However, not only is this an abuse of human rights, but also an immense waste of national, human resources.
Working group sessions
The number of working group sessions will depend upon the number of participants. However, there will be at least five working groups. Each group will be responsible for identifying essential policies and strategies in the following areas of education:
1 – What is the role of the teacher and teacher-training in ensuring that all children learn at school? What are relevant contents to be covered, methods and evaluation to be used, to promote the creation of an enabling learning environment for all.
2 – What policies are needed in the education system to ensure that children from the poorest families have equal opportunity to access and succeed in learning? (Attention to the advantaged and disadvantaged). What kind of capacity building is needed to implement the proposed policies?
3 – In what ways can cultural traditions and practices help to improve educational opportunities for the poorest children?
4 – If there are multiple providers of education for the poorest children, how can progress be coherently monitored in both quantitative and qualitative terms?
By the end of the workshop participants should have drawn up a set of policies, strategies and options for planning and implementing education systems that will provide real opportunities for the poorest children to break the cycle of poverty. They should also have identified the priorities for follow-up activities.
Follow-up to the Workshop
UNESCO will compile the conclusions of the meeting in a document and make it available to Member States. Within the context of Education for All, the Workshop is to be considered a step in the long process of poverty eradication through education. UNESCO will continue the dialogue on the key issues of education and pay special attention to the monitoring of progress in reaching the poorest groups.
Who will be invited to the Meeting?
– Policy level representatives from fourteen countries from different regions (depending on availability of funds);
– Representatives of agencies that have shown interest in poverty eradication;
– Representatives of NGOs;
– Representatives of the private sector;
– Representatives of religious bodies;
– Representatives of International and Multilateral Agencies.
Uganda is considered an appropriate venue because it has completed its Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) and is now in the implementation phase.