High-level Strategic Meeting to Accelerate Efforts to Reach Out to School Children

Doha, 29 April 2013

Salaamu Alaykum…(Peace be upon you)

Greetings and welcome to Doha.

These greetings come to you by way of a journey, from Paris, then to Washington and now here in Doha.

We appreciate your presence as we continue what we began at the UNESCO meeting in Paris six months ago, and in Washington earlier this month. I thank you all for responding to our invitation, and for the interest that you have shown in the issue of out of school children.

The hearts of these children would be warmed if they knew that all of us here recognize their plight and if they knew of our determination to transform their realities. This determination is embodied in our meeting today. This determination must be translated into action on the ground, to enable these children to gain their birthright to educational opportunity.

The Educate A Child (EAC) programme is inspired by the Millennium Development Goals, which have been agreed at a global level. These goals seek to enable all children to access to primary schooling by 2015.

Our initiative is about finding creative approaches and mechanisms to ensure that children have access to schooling, no matter how difficult the challenges, from conflict to poverty.

Sixty-one million children are out of school… the world has a moral and development responsibility to address this problem – a responsibility that cannot be evaded. How can we build stable communities, achieve economic growth and create a sounder future if we cannot overcome the conditions that hinder children from having access to schooling?

It is truly embarrassing that we live in a world where, on one hand, technical progress allows for so much advancement in education, while on the other hand, the humanitarian issue of children missing out on school cannot be addressed, or is ignored.

The EAC programme is based on the notion of innovative solutions to this problem, working together with all of our noble partners who believe, as we do, in a world in which no child is deprived of his or her right to education, under any condition.

To achieve the second Millennium Development Goal, namely to see universal primary education become an inalienable and sustainable right, I believe we need action at three different levels:

Firstly, creating pro-active programmes that address the conditions and factors that prevent children from entering school. This is how we will deal with the roots of the problems that lead to this deprivation, as a pre-emptive measure.

Secondly, creating programs that ensure that children do not drop out of primary-level education. Getting children into school is not enough – there must be effective mechanisms that help them continue their schooling beyond primary level.

Thirdly, designing programmes that eradicate once and for all the phenomenon of 61 million children being out of school.

All these issues are interlinked, and partial solutions will not work. Global problems cannot be addressed in a piecemeal fashion. Partial solutions will only generate other types of problems.

That is why EAC works to target two different levels. The first level involves rapid intervention in emergencies. The second level involves bringing together a comprehensive global vision, that will allow the different actors to work together to confront a range of socio-economic problems faced by these children, who are not only deprived of schooling, but also suffer from difficulties, from disease, to hunger and poverty.

There is a need to strategically link education to efforts to fight poverty, provide gainful employment, invest in skills development, encourage sustainable development, enhance mechanisms of social protection, bolster gender equality, emphasize human development and respect cultural differences.

We are working to cement this vision by providing a holistic approach to education. The Silatech initiative, for example, facilitates vocational training. Partnering international agencies address problems of food security and health care for instance. Together with UNESCO, through our main parent foundation (Education Above All), we will soon issue a report that monitors cases of attacks on schools and teachers, to safeguard education in crisis.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

During this technical meeting, it is incumbent upon us to discuss the most appropriate ways, means, funding mechanisms and expertise, and move towards enhancing our individual and collective readiness at various levels. This will help us accelerate the implementation of measures that we have agreed to, and see the largest possible number of children enter school.

In particular, we should diversify strategies according to different circumstances and environments, and focus our efforts on enhancing, supporting and expanding approaches that work, while taking into account the need to listen to local voices and benefit from international experience. As with all issues of global scope, there is no alternative to partnership if we are to come up with the required solutions.

This is also an opportunity to express our gratitude to our partners, who have spared no effort in supporting EAC, as they work with us to develop mechanisms to support the world's poorest and most marginalized children. None of us working alone will be able to overcome the global education challenge that we face.

This is why our belief in the value of partnership is so firm, and why the benefits and potency of partnership are showing their fruits every day. We are truly lucky to have partners throughout the world, with whom we are planning and working to help some of their children attain their right to schooling.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank ministers from a number of these countries for demonstrating their commitment, by joining us at our meeting today.

EAC is targeting thirty four countries, which represent more than 70 percent of out of school children. We are pleased to note the presence of representatives of 17 countries, which together represent 60 percent of these children.

EAC has succeeded in supporting 600,000 children into school over a period of four months – this merely marks the beginning of our ambitious effort, which we want to see reach 10 million children by the end of 2015…

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As long as we believe that education is an inalienable right for all people, enshrined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; as long as we agree that education serves as the solid foundation for development, progress and peace; as long as we jointly share our responsibility to out of school children; and as long as our intentions are centered on taking action to solve this global problem, then we have no option but to join in pooling all our capacities and efforts to ensure that innocent children are not deprived of primary-level education, through no fault of their own.

I am fully confident that we will not disappoint the innocent children who are looking to us for assistance.

Once again, I thank you for your presence and wish you all the best in our endeavors.
Salaam Alaykum (Peace be upon you)