A MEETING of the senior officials of the nine educationally backward countries got under way in Abuja, yesterday with a challenge to ensure that they meet the 2015 international targets of Education For All (EFA) and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The meeting is a follow-up to a similar one at the sideline at the just concluded 36th General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in Paris, France.
The Abuja forum, according to the organisers, is to afford the group the opportunity of assessing the progress made since the Paris outing
Nigeria currently chairs the forum and it is expected to shift to India in February, next year.
Declaring the two-day event open in Abuja, Education Minister, Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufa’i, who has been chairing the group since June last year, said it would be able to give the group the opportunity of assessing how far they have gone since the Paris meeting.
Besides Nigeria, other members of the E-9 Club include Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, China and Mexico.
Rufa’i lamented the precarious position of the E-9 countries, especially as regards the meeting of the education for all (EFA) Goals Three and Four that is achieving complete eradication of illiteracy among the member-country.
According to her, “the E-9 countries are currently harbouring two-thirds of the illiterate adults and youths in the whole World. Out of about 800 million illiterates, the E-9 countries combined have about 535 million, so it is very critical for these countries to meet regularly to exchange ideas and come out with programmes and targets.”
The minister added: “In June, last year, there was development of the Abuja framework that would help in scaling up the activities of E-9 countries.
“So today (yesterday) the senior officials are meeting to see how we can review our progress, based on what we have agreed last year at the E-9 meeting and of course report the progress made so far, preparatory for the next meeting in India next February.”
Prof. Rufa’i said: “It is very critical that Nigeria being the chair, should be able to mobilise these countries and of course look inwards to see what we are also doing as far as our UNESCO Fund is concerned to ensure that at home, we also scale up activities in terms of achieving the targets of eradicating illiteracy.
“This meeting is, therefore, a unique opportunity for the E-9 countries to exchange ideas, review and monitor progress in line with the Abuja Framework for Action and Co-operation.”
She stated that reducing illiteracy rate by 50 per cent was one of the “greatest challenges of the forum.”
The minister said the officials had no option but to deliver their countries from illiteracy and poverty.