Ethiopia has been hailed as a success story for its performance in spearheading Education For All and its all-out drive to meet The Millennium Development Goals (MDG) set for the sector.
The praise was showered by bilateral and multilateral donor participants during an extraordinary global ‘Spring Meeting of the World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund’ held on 17 April, 2013 at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC.
The occasion dubbed ‘Learning for All Ministerial Spring Meeting’ was organized by the World Bank, it was learnt. Prominent personalities and key note speakers on the agendum: Learning for All, included UN Secretary General, Banki Moon; World Bank President Dr. Jim Yong Kim; and UN Special Envoy and former British PM Gordon Brown.
Key representatives of bilateral and/or multilateral donor and international organizations such as DFID/United Kingdom; Italy; Finland; Global Partnership for Education/GPE; World Bank/IDA; USAID; UNESCO, UNICEF, also addressed the gathering. Ethiopia was one of the eight invited countries for such worldwide educational forum, it was corroborated
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education, Demeke Mokonnen, who was a panelist made a startling presentation on the importance of education in Ethiopia at the Center for Universal Education at Brookings, it was revealed. The Ethiopian Deputy Premier reflected on his government's commitment to improve learning opportunities for youth and children.
He further stated that the two major road blocks of educational development that are preventing all children from entering; staying in school and learning are the financing and the quality gaps.
To this effect, Deputy Premier and Minister of Education Demeke Mekonnen, presented remarkable achievements Ethiopia has accomplished in the education and training sector over the last twenty years.
Notable amongst these were its stride in raising the gross enrollment rates/GER from 30% in 1997 to 95% in 2011/12 accompanied by a spectacular endeavor in achieving an 85% net enrollment rate/NER of school age children in the fight to win the battle for universal primary education for all, one sector of the MDGs Ethiopia has expressed its deep commitment to achieve in 2015.
The Deputy Prime Minister further accentuated the strong commitment of the Ethiopian Government on improving equitable provision of educational services to citizens where the gender parity index has stood at 0.95, during the academic year 2011/12 in the primary education sub-sector.
He went on to express the emphasis that the Government of Ethiopia has been making towards the education and training sector and declared that in terms of budget allocation, public expenditure in education has increased to 25.3% in 2011/12 from 11.3% in 1999/2000 while this same sector alone received about 4.7% of the country's GDP.
According to DPM and Minister of Education, the number of schools has increased from 11,000 to 32,000 during the last fifteen years. Referring to the unprecedented expansion of access to Primary Education / grades / 1-8 / the Minister of Education revealed that in the same span of time enrollment of school age students has shown a gigantic stride forward from 3.7 million to 17 million while the number of teachers has seen a substantial growth from 100,000 to over 321,000, he underscored.
In reference to the critical challenges encountered in the field, the Deputy Premier brought to the fore disparities in access to primary education and low level of quality of education. Mr. Demeke Mekonnen however stressed the government is aware of such impediments and has been strenuously striving to address the challenges by abolishing school fees: declaring access to free primary education and implementing productive safety net program, among others, he emphasized.
Some potential causes that dissuade certain children from flocking to schools the DPM apprised the group, were harmful traditional practices, sexual and domestic violence and early marriage. He also underlined the need for an extensive teacher upgrading program and overcome inadequacy of teaching and learning materials to meet the challenges in quality of education among other pertinent measures, he related.
During the interactive discussions that ensued the DPM and Minister of Education gave appropriate and pertinent responses in a frank and candid fashion. After the question and answer session UN Secretary General Banki Moon, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, World Bank President and Former British PM and UN Special Envoy, Gordon Brown other invited dignitaries to the forum appreciated Ethiopia's committed effort by stating that it has anchored itself in a robust and an all- engulfing crescendo of achievements both in the expansion of Education and in attaining a concomitant level of performance in quality, capacity and skill as a standard bearer to meet the MDG set by the UN.
In the course of the Learning For All Ministerial Meetings at Washington last week, and other previous consultations, a financial grant amounting to $432 Million is reported to have been secured from the World Bank/IDA; GPE; DFID/UK; Italy and Finland where this fund will entirely be allotted to the implementation of the second phase of General Education Quality Improvement Program / EQIP/ which is expected to be launched in July 2013 and continue for the next four years.
Mr. Demeke Mekonnen, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education, during the separate meetings held, expressed his sincere thanks for the timely and apt recognition by the World Bank and other bilateral and multilateral groups for Ethiopia's triumph in the implementation of the General Education Quality Improvement Program /GEQIP/ and its commitment to realize the MDG.
In a related development Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education, Demeke Mekonnen, had also held two extensive side meetings. One of these consultations was held with Japan’s International Cooperation Agency/ JICA’s Vice President Kiyoshi Kodera on educational matters specific to funding and strengthening science and mathematics education in Ethiopia. / SMASEE /
During this special confab it was agreed that JICA will continue its technical assistance on science and math education in Ethiopia through the SMASEE project where there will soon be agreement between the Ethiopian Government and JICA on extending the project after its completion next year, it was agreed.
DPM and Minister of Education had also had another meeting with Ms Alice Albright on behalf of Global Partnership for Education/GPE on how to implement results based education budget allocation and on how to secure the remaining fund for General Education Quality Improvement Program, it was learnt. The bilateral consultation was very productive in identifying possible sources of funding, it was understood.