Guyana education challenges raised at Cairo conference By Chamanlall Naipaul
Guyana Chronicle
February 28, 2002

PERMANENT Secretary, Mr. Hydar Ally and Chief Planning Officer, Ms. Evelyn Hamilton from the Ministry of Education recently attended a conference on education issues in Cairo, Egypt, where they articulated and highlighted problems affecting Guyana's education system.

The February 18-19 conference was sponsored by the G-8 countries and attended by representatives from Bangladesh, Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, India, Senegal and Uganda. Guyana was the only English-speaking Caribbean country invited to the conference.

Ally told the Chronicle the forum was useful, giving Guyana an opportunity to highlight the issues and challenges facing its education system and to interact with representatives from the industrialised countries, increasing opportunities for receiving technical assistance to further improve the education system.

It also provided an opportunity for developed countries to have a better perspective of the problems the education systems of developing countries face, he said.

According to Ally, several key and pertinent issues to education featured during the deliberations, including the exodus of teachers, the need for greater technical assistance to enhance institutional capacity and inadequacy of resources to implement programmes to improve education systems.

With respect to the latter, he said representatives of developing countries emphasised the "suffocating effect" of the debt burden on the allocation of greater finances towards improving education. And coupled with this is the reduced level of development aid from what was agreed to at the United Nations by the developed countries.

Ally noted that they had agreed to provide 0.7 per cent of GDP but the actual figure is 0.3 per cent.

It was also pointed out that in many instances the expectations of developed countries are too high and unrealistic. They fail to appreciate that the achievement expected of developed countries in a short period took the developed countries "centuries" in some cases, the Permanent Secretary said.

However, a statistical document circulated during the conference and prepared by Germany showed Guyana with the lowest distress indicator of 6.43 among the developing countries represented at the forum, he said.

At the Genoa Summit, the G-8 countries reaffirmed their commitment to help countries meet the Dakar Framework for Action Goals on Education for All (EFA), with a specific focus on the achievement of universal primary education by 2015, and closing the gender gap by 2005.

The G-8 leaders mandated a task force of senior officials to recommend, in cooperation with developing countries, relevant international organisations, and other stakeholders, ways in which the G-8 might best support the achievement of the Dakar goals, Ally said.

A consensus of the basic principles and objectives of education has existed since the World Conference on Basic Education for All, which took place in Jomtien, Thailand in 1990. As the decade unfolded, however, some of the initial momentum was lost, Ally noted.

While the overall expansion of enrollment exceeded population growth, the pace of increase remained too slow in many countries to close the gap significantly, the framework document for the conference stated.

The world community gathered in Dakar, Senegal in 2000 to assess the progress made and to chart the way forward.

It was successful in generating renewed international commitment and a consensus on six comprehensive and reinforcing goals: improving early childhood care; free and compulsory universal primary education; equitable access of life skills programmes; achieving a 50 per cent improvement in adult literacy by 2015; eliminating gender disparities by 2005, and achieving measurable improvements in the quality of education, the document added.