Serious Resource Challenge To Secondary Education: Arjun

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New Delhi, Oct 19 (UNI) India today renewed its commitment to Education For All, but said ''lack of resources and donor fatigue'' pose ''a serious challenge'' to its expansion.

The concern was voiced by Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh at a United Nations agency conference in France.

Addressing the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation's 34th General Conference, Singh said, ''We have concentrated on elementary education'' and ''anticipate an exponential growth of demand for secondary education.'' The Indian delegate said his country has made ''strenuous efforts to increase domestic funding of our core programmes.'' But ''the lack of resources and donor fatigue pose a serious challenge for further expansion of EFA in the E-9 countries,'' he said, urging participants to set the tone for discussions of the High Level Group on EFA in December 2007.

His address touched on such points as higher education enrollment, mid-day meals, reaching the underprivileged and deprived sections, popularisation of science and protection of cultural objects.

''We are targeting to increase Gross Enrolment Ratio for higher education from the present 10 per cent to at least 15 per cent in the next five years.

''We are also working towards increasing the public expenditure on education to the level of six per cent of GDP-- Gross Domestic Product-- over this period.

''We have in recent years taken several affirmative actions to extend the benefits of education to the underprivileged and deprived sections of the society.'' Singh said ''India's initiative in running the largest school children feeding programme is now duly recognised in having brought nutrition to the forefront in pulling even the most disadvantaged children to the schools through the Mid-day Meals prepared with the full participation of the mothers and the local community.'' He listed some UNESCO conferences India is scheduled to host in the coming months on such issues as Environmental Education, Global Literacy and Social Development of South Asia.

Singh said the UNESCO's 2nd October Thematic Debate commemorating Mahatma Gandhi ''is a positive step towards'' understanding challenges posed by abject poverty in the midst of knowledge socieities.

He said ''India is glad'' its US$ 20,000 contribution ''has led to the establishment of the South-South Cooperation Fund in Education. Pilot projects should now be developed for developing countries in conformity with the requirements of different regions.'' Singh stressed science education and popularisation as well as development of a scientific temper. ''It is often forgotten that the ''S'' in UNESCO represents Science.'' He thanked the UNESCO and its Executive Board for backing India's initiative to strengthen UNESCO's association-- going back to its very inception-- with Auroville in commemorating its 40th anniversary.

In a special founding ceremony in February 1968, youth of 124 member states deposited soils from their respective countries in a foundation urn, symbolising the coming together of the world community.

Singh also mentioned Indian plans for National e-Governance hoped to make government services locally accessible to the common man if they dwell in remote and marginalised areas.

India, he told delegates, has put in place a Right to Information Act to enable free access of information and to foster transparency in government.

On the UNESCO's budget, expected to suffer a 17 million dollar cut despite India's effort, Singh said ''some adjustments must be made'' in administrative and travel costs so that vital programmes are not affected.

On the United Nations having declared 2nd October as International Day of Non-violence, Singh said, ''All of us in India have been moved greatly by this gesture. But Gandhi, whose memory is invoked by that date, belongs not only to India, but also to the world.'' Singh said Gandhi represented the very spirit and soul of UNESCO and its Constitution which states: ''The wide diffusion of culture and the education of humanity for justice and liberty and peace are indispensable to the dignity of men.'' Singh said many parts of the world are caught up in violence and disharmony and ''we need to reinforce UNESCO's role as truly the heart of the UN system and as the symbol of truth and non-violence.'' UNI

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