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With the 2015 target date for the Millennium Development Goals and Education For All fast approaching, the ...
With the 2015 target date for the Millennium Development Goals and Education For All fast approaching, the
issue of out-of-school children is more important than ever for countries in West and Central Africa. Since
2000, the number of out-of-school children was on a downward trend, however, since 2008 these figures
have not moved; the burden for countries in the region has increased dramatically for they are now home
to more than a third of the world’s out-of-school children. Based on the latest household surveys from 21
countries in the region, this study reports that there are nearly 32 million children of official school age who
are not attending either primary or lower secondary school. A further 17 million school children who are at risk
of dropping out could be added to this figure. These statistics, which show the magnitude of the situation, fail
to take into account the hardships associated with this situation for families and the huge loss for the region
and society as a whole.
This study aims to shed some light on the scale and mechanisms of exclusion in the region, and to bring to
the fore a number of tools and resources that are available to promote the educational inclusion of all children.
To enable all children, even the most marginalized, to have access to basic quality education, we need to
think creatively and make use of all the resources at our disposal. It is imperative that the fight against all
forms of exclusion is coordinated and concerted. Indeed, without mass mobilization of all stakeholders and a
comprehensive strategy, it will not be possible to effectively address all forms of school exclusion. However,
only a truly inclusive education system has the capacity to build a knowledge-based society, which the region
urgently needs for its future. The international community has a decisive role to play in supporting the efforts
of these countries to develop an inclusive education system.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has a specific responsibility to encourage and help all children
deprived of education. The main priority, in collaboration with all stakeholders, remains the enrolment of all
out-of-school children as quickly as possible. There are just two years left for us to achieve the collective
commitments to which we agreed in 2000; we must therefore have the strength and determination to take
the most appropriate actions that will enable all children to fully exercise their right to a quality education.