Success in school completion rates begins with school readiness. UNICEF has worked with Cambodia, China, Georgia and Uzbekistan to develop national school readiness standards, supported parental education initiatives and preschool programmes in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Moldova, Romania, Togo and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and pushed for specialized education for children with disabilities in Belarus and Jamaica.
69 countries had national plans for reducing gender disparity, an increase from 59 in 2005. In 2006, Côte d’Ivoire developed a national girls’ education acceleration strategy, Mali adopted specific measures for improving access to education for girls living in poor, rural areas and initiated gender-based teacher training, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo encoded universal access to primary education into its new constitution.
UNICEF supports child-friendly schools – places that are safe, healthy, stimulating, gender-sensitive and student-centred. By the end of 2006, 54 countries had adopted quality standards for primary education modelled after the child-friendly school blueprint.
In 2006, school fees were abolished in selected grades in Sierra Leone, and in Lesotho free education was expanded to all seven primary grades. UNICEF supported scholarships and other financial incentives in Kenya and Liberia, and augmented scholarships in Guatemala’s poorest municipalities to help keep girls in school.
Child-friendly schools – which incorporate potable water, clean, gender-segregated sanitation facilities and hygiene education – affect lives beyond the classroom. Students bring hygiene lessons home from school, changing behaviour within households. Water, sanitation and hygiene education allow girls to go to school. Central water sources free girls from the onerous and often dangerous task of fetching water. Gender-segregated facilities afford girls and young women privacy and alleviate parents’ fears about the safety and dignity of their daughters.
Furthering girls’ education, the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI), a dynamic partnership between nearly three dozen UN agencies, donors, non-governmental organizations and other entities, expanded to include 36 countries. A two-year joint UNICEF-UNESCO Education for All plan was adopted in Turkmenistan. Joint basic and girls’ education initiatives took hold in Egypt and Mozambique, and UNICEF technical assistance helped secure more than $42 million for Kyrgyzstan, Moldova and Tajikistan and $70 million for Rwanda, with a special focus on girls’ education.
In 2006, UNICEF expanded school water and sanitation coverage in 85 countries, up from 76 in 2004. In Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Pakistan, for example, participatory hygiene education and safe, gender-segregated facilities have been included in national education guidelines. In India and Kenya, major studies on the impact and sustainability of school water, sanitation and hygiene initiatives were launched in 2006.
Girls’ education remains a priority for UNICE , with country offices reporting that
Non-formal education has been expanded for excluded and older children. In Bangladesh, for example, 50,000 urban children were admitted into 2,000 new learning centres as part of the Basic Education for Hard-to-Reach Urban Working Children project. Students between ages 10 and 14, mostly girls, participate in lively discussions and acquire basic life skills with the goal of breaking the cycle of poverty. In Myanmar, a national ‘Let’s Read’ initiative engages young people who do not attend formal school in life skills training and HIV-prevention education.
UNICEF ANNUAL REPORT 2006