Maria Lourdes Almazan-Khan

Maria Khan, Vice President of the International Council for Adult Education (ICAE) and General Secretary of the Asian-South Pacific Bureau of Adult Education (ASPBAE) was involved on behalf of the NGOs in the preparations for Dakar. She stood for the importance of the adult education dimension, so that it is not surprising that she asked at the end of the World Forum whether the abbreviation EFA, for “Education for All”, actually meant “Except for Adults” since schools were being given precedence over out-of-school youth and adult education.

Does EFA Stand for “Except for Adults”?

At the World Education Forum (WEF) in Dakar 182 of the world’s 193 countries deliberated on educational achievements of the past decade and renewed commitments for the coming period.

Non-governmental organizations had a strong voice at the World Education Forum. From April 24 to 25, 2000, the International Council for Adult Education (ICAE) and the Asian South Pacific Bureau of Adult Education (ASPBAE) were pleased to participate in the International Consultation of NGOs on Education for All, organized by the UNESCO NGO Collective Consultation on Literacy and Education for All.

NGO Consultations

The NGO Consultation was organized as a preparatory process for NGO involvement in the WEF. More than 200 NGOs predominantly from Africa and Europe participated. At the end of the NGO Consultation, participating organizations selected their representatives for two working groups in the main Conference:

  1. the Drafting Committee, charged with drafting the main body of the Dakar Framework for Action, and
  2. the Futures Committee, charged with defining the follow-up and implementing mechanisms of the Dakar commitments.

The Drafting Committee and the Futures Committee were made up of representatives from NGOs, government and bilateral agencies. Nitya Rao of ASPBAE and Coordinator of the International Literacy Support Service, was a member of the Futures Committee.

At the consultation, the NGOs agreed upon and submitted a set of recommendations on the Draft Dakar Framework for Action. They drafted an NGO Statement, read during the Inaugural Plenary Session of the WEF1. As well, they demanded that the WEF grant accreditation to all NGOs at the consultation. UNESCO conceded this demand, and nearly 150 NGOs were accredited (up from the original 55 allocated slots).

Three NGO plenary speakers spoke in the forum: Ms. Rao was a panellist on the session on “Cooperating with Civil Society to Achieve Social Goals through Education”2 Jennifer Chiwela of Zambia read the NGO statement during the forum’s Inaugural Session; and Tom Bediako, African Coordinator of Education International spoke on behalf of NGOs in the Closing Plenary.

NGOs and the Dakar Framework for Action

On April 28, the participating governments at the WEF approved the Dakar Framework for Action, signifying renewed commitment to education for all. The final Dakar agreements reiterated the Jomtien commitments, with greater emphasis on Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, women’s and girls’ education, areas of conflict and HIV/AIDS education. The Framework for Action also gave greater prominence to follow-up mechanisms at national and global levels, and to the role of civil society. Circumstances in each region were too different, however, to enable a consensus on a common set of follow-up structures at regional levels.

The NGOs advocated that 8% of total aid budgets be dedicated to basic education, and that governments allocate at least 6% of GNP to education. Neither of these clauses, however, found their way into the final set of commitments on resource allocations in the framework, although participating governments agreed upon a strongly worded clause on debt relief and cancellation.

The Dakar Framework for Action referred to a “lifelong learning framework” – an expanded definition of education that recognized the commitments made at the Fifth International Conference on Adult Education (CONFINTEA V) in Hamburg 1997. Lifelong learning, however, did not inform much of the actual substance of the Dakar commitments. Rather, a highly compartmentalized, “functionalist” view of education, with a priority on primary schooling, still dominated. By and large, the discourse accommodated adult learning only in terms of adult literacy or skills training.

The Global Campaign for Education – an NGO Initiative

The largest NGO-organized initiative at the WEF centred around the Global Campaign for Education (GCE), a coalition of development NGOs and teachers’ unions advocating education policy-related issues. The GCE has been active in the EFA 2000 review process and the Copenhagen +5 assessment, and became the node of NGO advocacy during the Dakar Forum. It was very high profile and well organized. ASPBAE has since become a member of GCE; the ICAE network hopes to collaborate with the Global Campaign, especially in the post-Dakar follow-up.

The Follow-up

The follow-up mechanisms in the Dakar Framework for Action define national, regional. and global mechanisms, with civil society participation, to monitor and push for the implementation of the Dakar commitments. Delegates discussed the possibility of UNESCO Paris organizing an NGO Strategizing Workshop for post-Dakar-follow-up in Africa and Asia. A Ministerial Meeting of the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation was also planned to deliberate on the post-Dakar Follow-up; the Pakistani, Indian,ýSri Lankan, Nepalese and Bangladeshi government delegations met several times in Dakar to discuss such an initiative. ASPBAE will use the occasion of its Strategic Planning consultations and its Regional Advocacy Training in November 2000 to deliberate further on its role in relation to the Dakar and CONFINTEA V follow-up process. 

1 The full text of the NGO Statement is here.
2 The full text of her address is here.

Adult Education and Development


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