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In 2000, 189 nations made a promise to free people from extreme poverty and multiple deprivations. This pledge turned into the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDG), to be achieved by 2015. The goal n. 2 and 3 specifically concerns primary education. They respectively aim to “ensure that, by , children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling and that girls and boys will have equal access to all levels of education” and to “Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015.
MDG interacts with the “Education for All” (EFA) program led by UNESCO, for the achievement of the following goals:
According to the MDG Report published in 2012, there have been significant improvement since the resolution: “Enrollment rates of children of primary school age increased markedly in sub-Saharan Africa, from 58 to 76 per cent between 1999 and 2010. Many countries in that region succeeded in reducing their relatively high out-of-school rates even as their primary school age populations were growing”. Yet, millennium goal related to primary education seems to be hardly fulfilled within 2015: as the Report continues, “Progress on primary school enrolment has slowed since 2004, even as countries with the toughest challenges have made large strides and illiteracy still holds back more than 120 million young people. [...] Out-of-school youth tend to have limited opportunities to develop or maintain literacy skills, restricting their options in life and compounding the disadvantages they face later on. In 2010, there were still 122 million people between 15 and 24 years of age—74 million women and 48 million men—who were unable to read and write a short, simple statement about their everyday life. The great majority of these young adults live in Southern Asia (62 million) and sub-Saharan Africa (45 million). In relative terms, literacy rates among the youth population are lowest in sub-Saharan Africa (72 per cent) and Oceania (76 per cent)”.
The 2012 EFA Global Monitoring Report states that “on current trends, the goal of universal primary education (UPE) will be missed by a large margin. […] The number of primary school age children out of school has fallen from 108 million to 61 million since 1999, but three quarters of this reduction was achieved between 1999 and 2004. Between 2008 and 2010 progress stalled altogether”.
“Abolishing formal school fees – the report continues – has been a fundamental step towards realizing UPE. But is also important for governments to take complementary measures, such as grants for schools and social protection measures. Steps also need to be taken to ensure that the ability of richer households to spend more on private schooling and private tuition does not lead to widening of inequality and The African education systems are plagued by insufficient numbers of trained teachers”.
As for young people and adult education, the report takes into consideration the role of secondary schooling in developing skills needed for work and life. Although the global increase, the gross school enrollments ratio stalls at 52 per cent since 2007 in low income countries. In particular, “Sub-Saharan Africa has the worlds lowest total secondary enrollment ratio, at 40 per cent in 2010”.
As for illiteracy, the 75 per cent of the 775 millions of adults that cannot read nor write are concentrated in ten countries (mostly in Africa and India). The global adult literacy rate has been increased during last years, but only three countries out of 43 will reach the target of reducing illiteracy by 50 per cent by 2015. In addition, according statistics, six year of school are insufficient to build literacy skills.
The efforts for gender equality has been insufficient. 11 countries (Chad, Pakistan, Côte d'Ivoire, Niger, Cameroon, Congo, among others) still face extreme gender disparity, whereas in 17 countries (12 in Sub-Saharan Africa) women have severe disadvantage in work and education respect to men.
The improvement of quality of education and of learning outcomes involve particularly the population of of primary school age that does not reach the fourth grade and fails to learn the basics. However, the process is affected by strong lack of trained teachers (in 2010 in Sub-Saharan Africa, the pupil/teacher ratio even rose from 42:1 to 43:1). EFA report estimates that 112 countries need to hire a total of 5.4 million teachers by 2015.
In order to fulfill and improve MDG and EFA goals United Nations development program supported “One Laptop per Child” project (OLPC) started in 2005 by OPLC Foundation. The project, probably the most famous and funded has the purpose to create affordable educational devices for use in the developing world.
Indeed, several NGOs are active and projects ongoing in African countries. Specific challenges for projects based on digital education involve the ability to cope with infrastructural issues and to interact with network providers. In addition, the project needs to connect with the professional community of teachers and educators, often overburdened and scarcely trained, as well as to insist in the adaptable, practical and cross-disciplinary character of learning contents. Such project must also face linguistic issues, due to the conflicts and interaction among local, national and colonial languages that jeopardize the possibility to have a language acting as a “medium of instruction”. Finally, special attention should be paid to to the new “technological pidgins” that are emerging from digital interactions, leveraging by the massive use of mobile phones and by the increasing use of the Internet.