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HIV/AIDS, poverty keeping children from schools, says UNICEF
Friday 22 April 2005
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SOUTHERN AFRICA: HIV/AIDS, poverty keeping children from schools, says UNICEF

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]


Education for girls is a preventative measure against HIV/AIDS

JOHANNESBURG, 18 April (PLUSNEWS) - HIV/AIDS and poverty are the stumbling blocks to achieving the target of gender parity in most Southern African classrooms by 2015, according to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).

The latest UNICEF report, released on Monday, indicated that school enrolment statistics in five Southern African countries - three of them with extremely high HIV/AIDS prevalence rates - were not on course for achieving gender parity.

In Botswana, Namibia and Lesotho, children from households affected by HIV/AIDS were often forced to quit school, pointed out Changu Mannathoko, UNICEF's regional advisor. Girls dropped out to run the home, while boys were forced to share the economic burden of the family by working.

Mannathoko noted that Angola and Mozambique, the two countries with the lowest primary school enrolment rates for girls in the region, had emerged from decades of conflict that destroyed rural infrastructure, including classrooms.

Gender parity is a prerequisite for achieving universal primary education by 2015, the target date set by the UN for this Millennium Development Goal (MDG), and is regarded as essential to promoting gender equality and empowering women, another of the eight MDGs. Progress towards this goal is measured by the elimination of gender disparity in primary and secondary education.

"Attempts are being made by Mozambique and Angola to improve access to school for girls, while countries like Lesotho are planning to introduce free primary education," said Mannathoko.

The abolition of tuition fees "has become more generalised in the region since the 1980s - a period of economic austerity - and has proved to be one of the keys of swift progress in primary enrolment," noted the UNICEF report, entitled 'Progress for Children'.

While introducing free or mandatory primary education, countries also had to safeguard the quality of education by building more schools, boosting the number of teachers and ensuring that measures to protect girls from abuse were in place, cautioned Mannathoko.

Poverty was a "fundamental barrier" to increased access to education. "Children from the poorest 20 percent of households in the developing world are, on average, three times less likely to go to primary school than those from the wealthiest 20 percent. This average ratio masks huge disparities between regions and between countries," said the UNICEF report.

To "relieve children from the burden of assisting their households, the social welfare systems in each country has to provide safety nets, such as food packets for vulnerable households," Mannathoko pointed out.

"Education is about more than just learning. In many countries it is a life-saver, especially where girls are concerned," UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said at the launch of the report. "A girl out of school is more likely to fall prey to HIV/AIDS, and less able to raise a healthy family."


New thinking needed on impact of HIV/AIDS on agriculture,  15/Mar/05
Rising child deaths illustrate region's health crisis,  29/Dec/04
Childhood under threat, warns UNICEF,  9/Dec/04
Cycle of poverty leads to recurring crises,  2/Dec/04
Renewed calls for sexual behaviour change,  1/Dec/04
Le portail d'informations générales de la Côte d’Ivoire
The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
Youth against AIDS
Making a Difference for Children Affected by AIDS

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