The Ministerial meeting of South Asian Association
for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) on the conclusion of its two-day
conference on "education for all" (EFA) in Islamabad last week
urged their respective government to allocate at least four per cent of
their GDP for education.
The first ever ministerial meeting of SAARC
unanimously adopted a declaration on EFA with a resolve to improve
quality of education and mobilise financial resources. The SAARC members
expressed commitment to provide free inclusive, gender responsive
quality basic education for all including all marginalised and
The members agreed to work in collaboration to
promote adult literacy, especially for women in the context of the
United Nations Literacy Decade and in the spirit of Dakar Declaration.
They urged international donor agencies and communities to honour their
commitments made in the World Education Forum in Dakar to achieve the
Addressing the mediamen at the close of the
conference, Education Minister Zobaida Jalal said that we have prepared
strategies and are now entering the challenging phase of the
implementation. The meeting deliberated on the theme of quality
financing of education and gender parity, she added.
Zobaida said that practical recommendations have been
put forth by the group of all member countries in the spirit of EFA and
Millennium Development Goals. "We need to trust each other work as
powerful strategic allies, valuing the comparative advantages and be
open to critique for the public good," the Minister added. She
appreciated the role of UNESCO and other UN agencies for supporting
Pakistan in activities for the enhancement of education sector.
She said that the papers presented on financing
frameworks for education from each of the seven countries reveal an
enormous commitment and well-researched positions on education target
strategies and resource requirements. Each country has to translate in
real terms the recommendations of the Islamabad declaration to enhance
allocation for learning competencies and bridging and gender gap,
The Education Minister informed that the Secretariat
of South Asia Forum on EFA established in Islamabad would be shifted to
Dhaka with all facilitates. The major theme agreed for the ministerial
meeting to be held in 2005 is decentralisation with a focus on
implementation of Kathmandu and the Islamabad declaration.
The declaration was read by Dr. Muhammad Shougee from
Maldives in the concluding session of the first ministerial meeting.
Earlier, Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz, who was the chief guest for the
morning session, observed that the highest rate of illiteracy and
poverty exist in this region, so the need of the hours is to make
concrete efforts for the betterment of the next generation. He said that
Pakistan will increase 20 per cent of its coming budget for the
improvement of social sector and education would get a maximum share.
Federal Minister for Investment and Privatization,
Abdul Hafeez Shaikh who also addressed the conference, urged all
countries of South Asia to work together for the promotion of education
in the region as this is the only way to raise the living standards of
"If we want to 'exploit true potential of the
South Asian region, there is need to ensure quality education, learn and
reach but more to each other from sharing of experiences, "he said.
Hafeez Shaikh said that holding of the conference on Education for all (EFA),
shows determination and resolve of the leadership in South Asia to give
greater emphasis on the promotion of education as "the countries
that did not invest in people have been left behind", he added.
Highlighting the role of Pakistan government in the
promotion of education in the country, the Federal Minister said that
for over three years, the government is trying to ensure greater
enrollment and improve quality, bringing madaris to the system of modern
education and created a commission on Women Development for broad-based
education by involving the community. With macro-economic stability, the
government has enhanced budget for education with focus on removing
gender disparity, he said adding that 'education for all' is an
overwhelming and difficult goal and appropriate response would be needed
to redouble our efforts to achieve it.
During her welcoming address, Federal Education
Minister, Zobaida Jalal said that the ongoing ministerial meeting has
two cutting edge themes of quality and financing of education. She said
the only solid survival strategy to all social sectors and economic
development is making the education as priority number one for Pakistan.
The countries of the region are on their way towards mobilising a
movement to support the promotion of education, she said there is
unprecedented political will to work for education and divert resources
towards the enhancement of education activities.
The education minister said in case of Pakistan
quality of education, gender disparities continue to be our challenges.
To meet these challenges the government had developed the education
sector reforms action plan to increase literate, enhance primary,
middle, secondary and higher education enrollment, she said adding that
in the last 20 years the government has rehabilitated 11,000 schools out
of 100,000 trained 175,000 teachers at primary and elementary levels and
reviewed curriculum up to intermediate level.
In her address, the Executive Director of UNICEF, Ms.
Carol Bellamy said that poverty and ignorance are obstacles to progress
and that can be overcome by quality education. Girls education is the
single best investment that any society can make, she added.